More than 60 guests gathered recently in celebration of the retirement of Frances Chavez, who has been with the ARC NEPC Center for 27 years. The event was held Oct. 1 at the G&J Restaurant Bar & Grill.
Frances started her job with the ARC NEPC in 1992. With a bit of hesitation, she (along with many) was a bit worried about the road traveling from Superior. Soon after overcoming her fear of the drive, she drove into what would become her passion and love for members.
In 1993, the ARC NEPC was located across the tracks in Kearny. The Gila River flooded bringing water into the ARC. Sadly, everything was ruined and the members had nowhere to go. Thankfully, Mrs. Rosalind Padilla secured a classroom at the Ray school. While Frances appreciated it, she wanted their “own” place. Frances soon began looking for a building uptown Kearny. She had a vision to have their own center where members could do yard work in the town and have a thrift store. She recalls a bit of hesitation from the board – not all were okay with the members being in town. Frances held her ground and soon the center was in full swing. The ARC NEPC now owns the large building at 316 Alden Rd. in Kearny.
Frances came to Kearny in search of a job. What she received was so much more. She gained something the rest of us could only dream or think about … the love of so many. The center offers a “second home” to the members. All the members love Frances. Not only did she work with and for the members, but she also truly loved them all. Frances also made a point of celebrating birthdays and every holiday. Frances together with staff members even hosted a wedding for members who fell in love. One staff member said, there is so much more to Frances than a director. She is also a wife, mother, grandmother and a good friend.
At the celebration of her retirement, conversations of praise filled the room along with laughter and tears through so many memories. Many staff members who had worked with Frances shared their memories and wishes.
Sandra Marquez, a former staff member, said Frances is a longtime friend.
“I first met France in 1992. I started working for the ARC in 1986,” Marquez said. Frances at first was so naïve, Marquez said, but she taught herself through the years that the clients, ARC and staff were her priorities. Frances has renovated the ARC only for the clients to have a second home so the clients can be taught to work in the community and a chance to interact with their peers. Every year Frances would plan an outing for the clients, such as camping and going to the special Olympics. The ARC was blessed to have Frances, so were the clients and staff. “You’ll be missed,” Sandra concluded.
Carla Manzo had these comments. “I would like to thank Frances for the wonderful job she has done for us, making the ARC what it is today. She is truly a leader great boss and an amazing friend and advocate. She is truly an amazing person; she loves the members and staff and would do anything for us all. I am truly grateful for the opportunity to work with her, she will be missed by all of us.”
Breezy Willis says Frances is such a loving and compassionate lady. She’s not only a boss, she’s also a friend. When there’s devastation, Francis is one of the first to come running. She loves everyone. Her love for our members is unspeakable. Frances has made a beautiful place for our members and staff to work as a family. She allows members to have independence. She loves all and would move mountains for all. “I love you so much and thank you for all the wonderful years,” she told Frances.
Rebecca Romero said Frances was always there for her, staff and members. She is a very giving to others. Frances has helped us in one way or another. She would lend an ear to the staff if we needed to talk or vent. Sky was the limit when it came to the members. If they ever needed anything, it was there. She has helped with many fundraisers along with her staff and board members. Frances help set up trips for the members to go to for all their hard work and rewarding them. Camping trips, state fair trips, concerts, swimming, picnics, movies, Disneyland, shopping, etc. Those were just to name a few. Frances also took some members and staff to ARC conventions all over the state. The members and staff loved and appreciated it. Frances loved to have parties for the ARC staff and members and their families were also able to attend.
“As you leave us with a lot of great memories, the good and some not so good, but hey, no one anywhere is perfect. Just know you were a great boss, I love you and am going to miss you as will the members,” Romero said.
Finally, Kathy Barga said she knew Frances since 2010. She said a lot has gone on in 11 years: laughter, madness, loud voices lol and sadness. Making memories for a lifetime. Even with the roller coasters and the up and downs, we always came back to have love for one another. “You’re strong and feisty and get things done! Just look at this place. Wow!! Thank you for having my back, for all the times I needed you to. You have shown me that all things can be put aside and move forward. You will not be forgotten. I wish you the best retirement,” Barga said.
The new director is already on the job. She is Monica Kenyon of Kearny. Monica is married to Keith and they have a daughter, Amy.
The ARC NEPC wishes to thank G&J Restaurant Bar & Grill for the fine food and Norm’s IGA for the delicious desserts along with all those who helped put on the retirement party.
Information submitted by Patsy Schoppol.