Written by Lance Leonhard
We often hear of new leaders being faced with the challenge of turning around a failing or unsuccessful organization, business, or even sports franchise. But, what about the challenge of taking a strong organization and making it even better . . . making it GREAT?
Finding the person to do just that was the challenge for the Aging and Disability Resource Center of Central Wisconsin (ADRC-CW) when longtime Executive Director Linda Weitz retired earlier this year.
Jonette N. Arms took on the role of Executive Director on March 19, 2018, and we couldn’t have hoped for a more dedicated, skilled, and principled person to take on the leadership of the ADRC-CW.
But, before we get to know more about Jonette, let’s talk a little about the ADRC-CW . . .
What Is the ADRC-CW?
The ADRC-CW’s mission is to promote choice and independence through personalized education, advocacy, and access to services that prevent, delay, and lessen the impacts of aging and disabilities in the lives of adults.
In service to its mission, the ADRC-CW strives to provide “easy access to services [aimed at allowing] consumers to participate in their community as they desire and live with dignity, respect, health, and purpose.” Services include:
- Meals on Wheels / Café 60 / Congregate Dining
- Professional Benefit Assistance
- Caregiver Support & Education
- Healthy Living Classes
- . . . and a great many more.
The ADRC-CW serves the populations of Langlade, Lincoln, Marathon, and Wood counties, delivering services at numerous locations, including serving meals at 12 senior congregate dining sites.
In addition to Arms, the ADRC-CW employs 76 full- and part-time staff and 16 additional causal employees.
Now that you have a bit of background on the ADRC-CW, let’s get to know Jonette Arms . . .
A Professional Career Defined by a Desire to Serve
Throughout her professional career, Arms has been drawn to serving her community. Most recently, she served as the Interim Executive Director for the Milwaukee County Department on Aging, where she was responsible for overseeing operations and financial management of an organization that served a senior population of more than 150,000, had an annual budget of more than $18 million, and delivered services and programs through numerous public and private community agencies.
Even so, Arms’s passion for working with our senior population isn’t something new . . .
In a previous position with The Alliance for Children and Families, Inc., Arms led a multimillion-dollar national initiative focused on inspiring human service professionals to serve, work with, and value the contributions of older adults. She has volunteered with the University of Wisconsin–Madison Alzheimer’s Institute and has served as Ambassador to the Office of Congresswoman Gwen Moore on behalf of the Alzheimer’s Association of Southeastern Wisconsin.
When asked what led Arms to develop her passion for working with older adults and individuals with disabilities, she credited her work at a skilled nursing facility with helping her find her calling.
“In 1990, when a personal crisis led me to seek employment as a Nursing Assistant at a local skilled nursing facility, I knew it wasn’t by chance that I had found work with older adults and individuals with developmental disabilities. From the start, I loved being a part of an environment where I could help the residents, and I found reciprocal support from those I assisted.
As years went on and my personal and professional life evolved . . . my heart always was and continues to be with working with and on behalf of older adults.”
Arms shared her vision for how she plans to use her new role to move the ADRC-CW forward:
“I believe that the Executive Director position offers me everything that I have ever wanted in a job/position. I am passionate about the mission and values of the ADRC-CW, as they truly reflect my personal and professional ethics. Given my broad background working in the nonprofit and government sectors, my skills perfectly align with the duties of the position.
This is the opportunity I have been waiting for.
By working with my ADRC-CW Board of Directors, Aging Advisory Committee, employees, national, state, and community leaders and partners, and the residents of Central Wisconsin, [I think we can make the ADRC-CW] the most forward-thinking aging and disability resource center in the nation, where older adults and persons with disabilities thrive and have access to the most innovative, relevant, fiscally sound, and sustainable programs and services. I look forward to getting out into the most rural and neediest areas to find people who are unaware of our services and also identify and work with the various communities of color throughout Marathon County and the entire region.”
Arms’s leadership style as Executive Director is shaped by her deep religious faith, and she strives to embody the concept of servant leadership.
“I am a servant leader, and I believe it is essential to support our communities and organizations from the bottom up — meaning being inclusive and listening to the voice of people.”
It didn’t take long for Arms to demonstrate her commitment to inclusivity and the value she places in the rest of the ADRC staff. One of the first things she did was to change the name of the “Management Team” to the “Leadership Team.” She also shared her philosophy on the importance of self-care for leaders, having learned firsthand the toll that an unhealthy work-life balance can take. Wiser now, Arms says that experience taught her how to support her staff, whom she says she serves, not leads.
Arms’s personal experience caring for her mother after an illness necessitated several months of in-home care clearly fostered her sincere commitment to and passion for assisting aging populations. She understands firsthand what families are going through as they navigate the healthcare system, arranging for physical therapy, in-home skilled nursing care, and more.
Arms delights in how her experience allowed her to reconnect with her mother and to learn little preferences that she might not otherwise have had the chance to discover. After moving to Marathon County, Arms promised to visit her mother in Milwaukee County at least once a month to maintain their newfound connection.
How Can YOU Get Involved With ADRC-CW?
Feeling inspired by Arms to lend a hand and devote some time to serving our community’s seniors and disabled adults?
You’re in luck, because the ADRC-CW is always looking for generous individuals to help them accomplish their mission. Arms shared:
“We would be remiss in not taking advantage of the skills and talents of those who want to support the organization. We currently have nearly 400 volunteers serving all aspects of programs and services in our organization across the Central Wisconsin region. We are always looking for more dedicated volunteers.
If you are interested in volunteering, or you would like to learn more about the ADRC-CW, please call 1-888-486-9545 or visit the ADRC-CW website. They can always use a hand to help with:
- Meals on Wheels Drivers — Bring joy and happiness to others by delivering hot, nutritious meals to older, homebound adults. Routes typically take about an hour.
- Meal Site volunteers — Make a group meal site into a welcome and warm place to enjoy a midday meal by preparing the dining room, serving the meal, or helping clean up after. A great opportunity for food, fun, and community.
- Health/Wellness Class Volunteers — Interested in health, wellness, and prevention? Volunteers are trained to lead classes; assist with class registrations, educational materials, and supplies; and work with community health educators.
- Office Assistants — Whether making copies, answering phones, putting folders/information brochures together, attaching mailing labels, or any number of office tasks, you could use your customer service and computer skills to make a difference.
- Medicare Part D Enrollment Specialist — Enjoy computers? Help individuals maximize their potential for benefits by assisting them with Medicare Part D Enrollment from early October through the end of November.
- Dementia Outreach Educator — Help to educate businesses and employees on how to make the community more “dementia friendly.”
- . . . and any other role that utilizes skills you’d like to use that aren’t listed here.
Can’t find time to volunteer?
Remember, the ADRC-CW is always open to accepting contributions to support its Senior Nutrition Program. All contributions go to serving hot, nutritionally balanced meals at their congregate dining sites or to home-bound seniors through the Meals on Wheels program.
Meals on Wheels serves approximately 230 Marathon County residents daily and 450 across the region. In 2017, it served approximately 216,000 meals regionwide.
* * *
As you can tell, Arms is extremely passionate about working on behalf of our seniors and adults with disabilities. Whether you see her speaking at a local service organization, school, or business, she’s likely to be telling you about all the great things that the ADRC is doing for those in need.
When you do see her, don’t hesitate to say hello and welcome her to Central Wisconsin.
We certainly are lucky to have her!
 Aging and Disability Resource Center. (n.d.). Mission, vision, and values. Retrieved May 21, 2018, from http://www.adrc-cw.org/who-we-are/mission/
Marathon County Deputy Administrator
Lance Leonhard began his career in Marathon County government in the Office of Corporation Counsel and currently serves as the Marathon County Deputy Administrator. Lance’s career in public service has spanned more than a decade, having worked for the federal government as a law clerk on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit and for the state of Wisconsin as an Assistant District Attorney. Outside of work, you’re likely to find Lance spending time with his family, traveling, teeing off on a local golf course, or sitting around a campfire with friends. Email Lance Leonhard.
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