Coutesy of NJ Herald:
In the chief executive officer's 40 years at SCARC, he has seen many changes, many advances and with no plan of retirement in the near future, he foresees many more exciting improvements and expansions for the Sussex County nonprofit.
Richard Lecher, 67, of Hackettstown, celebrated his 40th anniversary with SCARC in August. He recalled questioning his ability on his first day on the job, Aug. 15, 1972: "I remember I sat on a bench in Newton Square and I thought, what did I get myself into?"
Lecher spent his formative years working with the disabled as a special education teacher before being hired as SCARC's first and only executive director.
Lecher said the organization, which was founded in 1956, operated without a director for the first 15 years of its existence. When he came on board, the agency didn't even have an office.
"It was an overwhelming challenge, but we met the challenge," he said.
During his two score years at SCARC, Lecher said he has grown with the agency.
"Our budget was $20,000, now it's $14 million," he said. "We had a staff of five when I came, now we have about 320. We had no group homes at that time. We have 22 now plus an array of apartments. We had one adult program and now we have eight.
"We actually served 10 adults and about 20 children. Now we're serving about 700 adults and children, so the size of SCARC has kind of exponentially grown," Lecher said.
SCARC Inc. and SCARC Guardianship Services Inc. are organizations dedicated to supporting individuals with developmental disabilities and their families as the largest comprehensive organization in the county to meet the needs of this population.
"Forty years ago, it was Richard and a desk in a basement in some county building and now it's an organization that serves 750 people and is a significant employer for the county," said SCARC Board of Trustees Vice President Phil Motyka.
Motyka said Lecher is largely responsible for the success and growth of the agency.
"He is full of energy even after 40 years," Motyka said. "Richard has a new vision every day. He's always challenging us (the board) and the organization to do more, to come up with better ideas, better programs."
Lecher said SCARC has become "the leader in the disability field" as it not only serves the disabled with numerous programs, but offers support and resources to their families. Motyka sai SCARC has become a national model for advocacy and programs for the developmentally disabled.
"We serve a lot of people who would be unserved and isolated," Lecher said. "We've brought people back to the county from institutions and given them a high quality of life."
Lecher said increasing the quality of life of the disabled has been a "core value" of SCARC's.
Among some of Lecher's favored highlights while working at SCARC include the opening of the Hampton community center in 2010 while concomitantly opening two new group homes. Lecher said the community center helped to expand SCARC's reach, allowing the nonprofit to serve an additional 100 people each week.
"I think the growth over the years has been a great achievement," Lecher said. "We haven't been static, we haven't been complacent. We've always been aggressive to expand our services."
Immediate projects include the construction of a 15- to 18-unit apartment building in Newton and a new group home in Lafayette.
"It's a great team at SCARC and I'm still having a high amount of enjoyment in my job," Lecher said. "After 40 years, that may be a rarity, but I enjoy the mission of SCARC and I enjoy what I do here."
Lecher said he has no plans for retirement in the foreseeable future.
"I'm having too much of an enjoyable time to retire," he said.