In 1972, 23-year-old Chuck Schroeder, fresh out of college, was hired as the workshop supervisor of the Putnam County Sheltered Workshop. The organization served 12 clients.
Today, Schroeder directs the same agency -- renamed twice as the Putnam County Learning Center and now Putnam County Comprehensive Services. With Schroeder as CEO, PCCS serves approximately 220 clients.
While names and numbers may change, the man in charge has stayed the same for four decades.
Schroeder was honored by staff and clients for his 40 years at the annual PCCS association meeting, dinner and fun day.
Displaying the same attitude that has served him well in his time in Putnam County, Schroeder was quick to deflect the praise.
"None of this could be done without the staff that I have. People ask how I do it and I say, 'It's not me, it's them,'" Schroeder said.
"I've always said it's not about one person, it's others," he told the Banner Graphic. "Everything you do for a client, they'll reciprocate back to you 10 times. I couldn't have a better job."
Schroeder took over at the organization in September 1972, having graduated from Indiana State University that January. At the time, he was the youngest director in the state of Indiana.
He has seen both the terminology and the attitude about his line of work change over the years.
"When I first started, society referred to our clients as 'retarded.' And many, if not protected at home by their parents, were sent away to state institutions," Schroeder said. "Presently, 40 years later, we refer to our clients as individuals with developmental disabilities. And all the state institutions in Indiana have closed."
The changes haven't simply come from governmental agencies, but from citizens themselves.
"Society -- and particularly Putnam County -- has accepted our clients as individuals. I refer to our clients as having differing abilities, like us," Schroeder said.
Of course, some things have remained the same over the years, among them worries over state funding. However, Schroeder's positive outlook has been another constant.
"This is not an easy business to be in," PCCS Community Living Service Director Teresa Human said. "We found news articles from the early '90s of Medicaid cuts and the possibility of group homes closing. We have the same news articles and fears today.
"Chuck never led us based on fear," she continued. "Every new program, new service and opportunity he would jump in with both feet, sometimes with us kicking and screaming behind him. Chuck never lost his optimism of what we could do as an agency and for the individuals that we serve."
One such new opportunity has presented itself in the last year with the construction of an ice cream and sandwich shop on Bloomington Street. The business will be staffed by PCCS clients.
"The restaurant is an innovative approach to working with people with disabilities," Schroeder said, noting it is a first-of-its-kind operation that will gain wide recognition if it works.
As big of an accomplishment as it is, the restaurant is part of a much larger effort to get developmentally disabled individual s involved in society.
Whereas 40 years ago, Schroeder saw cases where parents kept their disabled children locked up at home, he says now 90 percent of their clients are involved in the community in some way.
By next year, PCCS wants that number to be 100 percent.
And while Schroeder will always deflect praise for such accomplishments to the staff and clients around him, they all know something else -- Schroeder remains the biggest piece of the puzzle.
"It is our philosophy that the consumer always comes first. It has always been our philosophy and it comes from the top," Human said. "That is what makes us a great company under Chuck's leadership, he has always stayed true to our mission and our philosophy.
"We have become what we are in large part to Chuck Schroeder and we have been very lucky to have him as our leader," she added, noting that Schroeder's devotion to PCCS has also meant a commitment from his family.
"Thank you, Chuck, for your leadership and sacrifice and also to Ruth, Brooke and Megan for the time taken away that he devoted to PCCS."