Lou Deepe has been appointed as Wildwood’s next Executive Director, effective January 1, 2021.
Deepe sat down to talk about his career in disability and human services, his vision for the future, and the importance of maintaining Wildwood’s culture as the agency moves forward. Watch the full interview to learn more about his history, and to see his perspective on transitioning to the new role: https://youtu.be/SnNjDJ1uHlM
Deepe started his career in human services in 1993, when a friend suggested a job at an ARC group home. With no previous experience knowing or supporting an individual with disabilities, he says it was initially a bit “overwhelming.” Since then, however, his family experienced – as many have – the joys and challenges that come with having a family member diagnosed with autism.
After starting as a Residential Direct Support Professional (DSP), over the many years in the field Deepe worked in a variety of positions, including as a job coach and teacher’s assistant, and in Community Habilitation and Respite Services, giving him a unique perspective on working inside the family home to support an individual. Eventually, Lou made the transition into an administrative position. He began working with Wildwood in 2008, in a Day Services administrative role, before moving on to being the Chief Operating Officer (COO) four years ago.
“I loved having a direct, positive impact on peoples’ lives when I was in those direct support roles,” says Deepe. “As I moved into more of a leadership role, I realized that I could have a different kind of impact on peoples’ lives. It was maybe…more indirect, but it had even more profound implications for their overall quality of life.” Creating a positive impact on staff was another fulfilling aspect found within having an administrative role –Deepe champions the workforce, boards, and community partners for their roles at Wildwood.
Stepping into the new position will come with challenges, namely those presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. Deepe says a primary short-term goal is to continue safely navigating the pandemic, and focus on the fiscal challenges that lie ahead. Long-term goals include fostering the culture of respect, integrity, creativity, and holism at Wildwood, investing in diversity, and a measurement of impact.
Wildwood has a longstanding reputation for having accessible, responsive Executive Directors. Like Mary Ann Allen and Ginny Rossuck before him, Deepe would like to continue the tradition of being available to staff, individuals, families and the community. Virtual “meet and greets” will be held in the future, and Deepe has plans to get out and meet people face-to-face as soon as the safety regulations allow. He believes that these conversations will help inform decision making, and provide valuable insight to the Executive Management team.
Longevity and the continuation of support are important factors in Deepe’s decision to stay in the human services field and at Wildwood. Building relationships with individuals and their families over the course of many years helps strengthen knowledge and understanding, creating those positive impacts he speaks of. “Whenever you can have a positive impact for someone, that keeps you coming back. That gets you through the hard times. That is what keeps people here [at Wildwood] for 20, 30, 40 years.”
As he looks forward to the future and his transition into the Executive Director/CEO position, Deepe would like people to know that, “in Wildwood, you have a committed, full partner. We will be there every step. We will be relentless in our advocacy for you, our support of you, and we will listen. We are not an organization that thinks we know everything – you know everything. You know what you need, you know what you want, your families know what you need and want. Tell us, and our job is to make that happen.”