Opportunity Enterprises CEO Ellen DeMartinis plans to retire after 26 years helping people with developmental disabilities.
DeMartinis, who has served as CEO of the Valparaiso-based nonprofit for the last five years, announced her retirement at OE's annual gala, receiving a standing ovation. She plans to stay on in the role until the board selects a replacement, and is willing to help mentor that person as he or she learns the job.
"The organization is in a good place. It's strong right now," DeMartinis said. "The executive team is seasoned. Now is the time for someone with vision to come in and move it forward."
DeMartinis started in the training department of OE, which helps people with developmental disabilities reach their full potential and become as self-sufficient as possible. She then moved to the agency's human resources department.
DeMarinis has held a variety of positions, including human resources director, vice president, chief operating officer, and interim chief executive officer on more than one occasion.
Opportunity Enterprises had a $3 million annual budget when DeMartinis started working there. Now it has a budget of $19 million and 380 employees, who serve more than 1,000 clients through programs like employment placement, a shredding service and a janitorial service.
"We've been expanding programming, such as with our respite services and workforce curriculum," she said. "We've been incredibly successful on the business side. With our shredding service, our document destruction has reached its highest-ever levels. Our Simply Amazon Market store inside the Valparaiso Meijer was a major accomplishment. It's been quite successful and gives people another option to shop and support us."
The organization serves people with disabilities and their families in Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties.
"It's gratifying to watch them grow and set new goals," DeMartinis said. "They learn their potential is unlimited. It's rewarding to meet each person and help get them to a higher level of independence and self-sufficiency. That's our mission, and we're grateful to all the people in the community who have helped with their time, treasure or talent. Without them, OE would not be what it is today."
Opportunities Enterprises has had to adapt its services as people with disabilities are living much longer and more and more babies suffer disabilities because their mothers had opioid abuse problems.
DeMartinis said retiring was one of the hardest decisions she ever made but the time was right.
"If you love what you're doing, you never really work a day in your life," she said. "My heart has been in this work every day, and that's a blessing."