Indian Creek Foundation has been led by a total of 3 CEOs in its nearly 50 year history. All three of our chief officers have been successful in their tenures by focusing on both the families we serve and the employees who carry out our day to day work.
Dean Stoesz, our current CEO, joined the organization in 2015 from an unlikely background. Dean is a chemist who spent his first career in the pharmaceutical industry. He retired early from that profession and applied his knowledge to teaching college for about a year to think about what he wanted to do next. The nonprofit world came calling, and he answered. After his first leadership role with Lighthouse Vocational Services in Lancaster, Dean was invited to apply for the CEO role here at Indian Creek.
Embrace Change and Develop the Changemakers
Dean is supervised by the ICF Board of Directors who entrust him with the managerial freedom to develop and grow our foundation. Dean’s first rule of leadership is to provide support and guidance rather than management.
As an analyst, Dean is great at planning and setting goals. But he knows that the best work happens by including the leaders within ICF to organize those plans and goals. Dean personally enjoys change and a good challenge, so he is wide open to the ideas of the Program Directors. He supports them through implementation strategies and makes sure everyone is recognized for their efforts. This approach results in leadership skills being cultivated at every staff position.
By inviting everyone into the process, Dean believes that ICF will continually improve as a service provider. People who enjoy their work will always rise to the challenge of finding creative and meaningful ways to make it even better. We promote from within, support further education both financially and clinically, welcome input from all departments, and clearly communicate the organization’s goals and plans. We believe that by maintaining a positive work culture, we will be most equipped to provide superior care to the individuals we serve.
Facing Obstacles with Realistic and Proactive Solutions
At this time, Indian Creek’s biggest obstacle is our staffing shortage. Currently, our Day Program has not fully recovered to pre-Covid attendance because we simply do not have the staff to meet the needs of our consumers. Our Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) are the frontline caregivers who truly make ICF what it is. The people who work here must have a heart for serving others. And if they do, they will have no shortage of friends, supportive colleagues, and appreciation. But we know that what a highly qualified staff needs most is a competitive wage and benefits package that allows them to live their best life both in and outside of work.
Dean is meeting this staffing challenge at the state level through advocacy efforts. He currently serves as the Board Chair of Pennsylvania Advocacy Resources for Autism and Intellectual Disability (PAR). This group is working to emphasize the industry’s need for increased funding and more freedom to direct it. Internally, Dean spends time trying to convince our Human Resources department to let him engage in wild and crazy recruiting ideas. Sometimes they say yes!
Dean also strives to be an employer who takes work-life balance issues seriously. He is working on an educational series to promote employee wellness and financial literacy. Finally, he recognizes the incongruence of local wages vs. local housing and is seeking opportunities to bring them in better alignment.
Raising Local Awareness
Dean’s hope for Indian Creek Foundation is that we are able to grow to meet the needs of every single individual who is qualified to receive our services. He is frustrated when parents and families have to be placed on a waiting list because we simply do not have the resources to fit them into our programs.
He is hopeful that when those who do benefit from our services share the impact it has had on their families, it will raise the giving momentum of our local churches and wider community. He also encourages parents to point their kids towards the social service fields such as psychology, social work, behavioral health, and caregiving. Indian Creek Foundation is an amazing training ground for young people who want to make a difference.
As for the long-term future, Dean is already thinking about his future replacement. Not that he has any plans of retiring for good anytime soon, but he thinks often about the kind of person who will make the best next leader of ICF. He hopes it’s someone who has worked their way up in this very organization, or one similar to it, who is a visionary with the practical knowledge to do amazing things for the staff and consumers we serve.