IM this article to a friend!

July 21, 2005

Leadership changes hands at Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services of Lancaster

From: Lancaster Newspapers, PA - Jul 21, 2005

New director expects little to change at the agency in the immediate future.

By Rebecca Carroll
Lancaster New Era

Published: Jul 21, 2005 1:11 PM EST

LANCASTER COUNTY, PA - A Lancaster native and Franklin & Marshall College graduate has taken over the leadership role at Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services of Lancaster County.

Clarence "Barry" Witmer, 59, joined the agency on June 20 as chief executive officer.

He replaces Jim Schneck, former executive director, who stepped down after 111-w years.

"I didn't feel like I had the support or encouragement of the present board at deaf services," Schneck says.

His replacement, Witmer, worked in the nonprofit sector in the Los Angeles area for 15 years.

"I like the mission-driven aspects of the work," the East Petersburg resident says.

He was program director and senior vice president for 12 years with the Hugh O'Brian Youth Foundation .

In 1995, he worked at the Jimmy Carter Work Project and "liked that a great deal," he says.

He then became the president and CEO of Habitat for Humanity in Los Angeles for three-and-a-half years.

The lure of family brought Witmer back to Pennsylvania in 2000, and he bought a small tree-service company here.

But his reaction when he became aware of the opening at the agency was a clear indication of his longtime love for the work of nonprofits.

"There's always a group being helped," Witmer says, "and it's always a very worthy group that has some kind of need. ...The people are wonderful, as is the client base, regardless of the non-profit."

For now, Witmer says, he plans to run things the way Schneck did.

Some of Schneck's accomplishments include parent and adult education classes for the deaf, and pregnancy classes to help deaf women receive information on nutrition.

"We even started a class for deaf people who were kept hidden in their homes and never went to school before," explains Schneck.

Just because Schneck has resigned, it doesn't mean he's going to stop helping people in the deaf community. He's currently doing some grant writing and is handling some communication evaluations.

"I'm doing some freelance interpreting now," Schneck says.

Schneck is teaching classes at Reading Area Community College and may help the school set up its interpreter training program.

He plans to pursue a doctorate from Temple University.

Witmer is cautious when contemplating the steps he needs to take to better the agency.

"I'm too new to say we're going to change this or change that,'' he says. "We want to continue what we've been doing and help as many people as we can."

Witmer does have one program already in the works.

He is working on a pilot program with the Lancaster City Police. Deaf board members will teach classes designed to help police officers learn sign language.

"Huge things are being done out there (in the deaf community), and it makes sense to do them in the Lancaster area," Witmer says.

© 2004 Lancaster Newspapers