After more than 30 years of working with individuals with developmental disabilities, Community Opportunities’ Director of Community and Employment, Darla Gamble retired from her full time position Nov. 30, 2017.
Gamble began her career working with individuals with developmental disabilities in 1983 at Social and Educational Life Skills (SELS), which dissolved in 1987 and became part of Community Opportunities.
Throughout the years she was instrumental in positively changing the day program services in Lincoln County from center-based to an inclusive community-based service.
In the late 80s and early 90s as the philosophy of employment for individuals with developmental disabilities was changing, Gamble embraced the idea as she helped develop employment services. This brought job opportunities to a number of individuals with disabilities in the county who for many years considered a sheltered workshop as their only employment option.
“I have to be honest, those early years of employment services were difficult. There were all kinds of new regulations to learn through not only the Department of Mental Health, but also the Dept. of Elementary and Secondary Education. This was a whole new ballgame,” said Gamble. “But with the support of the board, Mary Sullivan-Thomas, executive director, and a great guy, Jerome Kerns, director of supported employment, the program made it through those first few years and continues to be successful. Last year we assisted 12 individuals to become employed in competitive employment.”
Gamble was an outstanding leader in assisting Community Opportunities with their first national accreditation through CARF and has helped maintain the accreditation during the nine surveys thereafter. Throughout her career Gamble actively participated in the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation’s Community employment provider steering committee and was on the board of the Delta Center for seven years.
“Darla has been extraordinarily essential in the development of services in Lincoln County for people with developmental disabilities. Her leadership has impacted the lives of many and we look forward to the next chapter,” stated Sullivan-Thomas.
Although retired as a full-time employee, Gamble returned on Jan. 1, 2018 part time as the associate director of employment at Community Opportunities. She retired her full-time position to focus on working alongside her husband, Kenny, in his role as pastor of Silex Assembly of God church and enjoying time with her family which includes 10 grandchildren.