Jim Meehan, Executive Director of KFI, was recently honored with APSE’s (Association for Persons In Supported Employment) 2011 Professional Achievement Award. Jim has spent the better part of his professional career promoting employment and enriching the lives of people with disabilities, the last 28 years as KFI’s Executive Director. While his leadership at KFI transformed a traditional agency operating a sheltered workshop and work activity center and providing segregated and congregated day programs into personalized community supports and integrated employment, the reach of his impact is far more significant. His leadership has transformed policy and practice across our state and the nation. His work at KFI would make him an ideal candidate for this prestigious award. However, his involvement in local, state and national organizations and his contributions and mentoring to other agencies supporting people with disabilities has inspired social change with dramatic results across the nation. A long-time APSE member, Jim is a champion of civil rights believing that people with disabilities have the right to work, to choose and achieve a desired life style, to control where and how they live, just the same as you and me. His work has been widely recognized across our state and the nation and he is considered a pioneer for his vision, leadership and skill.
Jim’s knowledge and pioneering work in the area of supported employment has afforded untold numbers of people once thought "unemployable" to work in productive jobs, in real community workplaces, among nondisabled coworkers. Jim is so committed to making employment a reality for those KFI supports who experience the most significant disabilities that he made it his own personal crusade (“Big Hairy Audacious Goal”, or “BHAG”) during the final years of his tenure with KFI. He created a “Customized Employment” component, separate from the agency’s traditional VR-funded employment services, and assigned staff whose sole focus is getting to know individuals through the “discovery” process, explore self-employment ventures, and match people’s unique gifts and skills to specific needs within the business community. As a result, Corey operates his own recycling business, Tom – a neat nick – got his first job ever as a housekeeper at a local motel, and Charlie, who has difficulty with social interactions, was recently hired to do data entry and inventory control for a tractor sales company.
In the demanding and multi-faceted position of Executive Director of a $5 million service provider agency, Jim Meehan is “the real thing”. Jim measures the success of KFI by the individual stories of people supported, like Robert, who when he presented with Jim at a national conference, talked about being a valued employee of a local grocery store, volunteer for his church and other community organizations and owner of his own home; or Leo, who has worked at a credit union for over 10 years, owns his own home, and is active in the Knights of Columbus.
Jim works in a state of “positive discontent” and although he does take great pride in the accomplishments of people supported by KFI, he is not yet satisfied and knows that there is more work to be done assisting people to make their dreams of a working life a reality. He inspires, mentors, and supports his staff to carry on this vision and has created an agency committed to the values on which APSE was founded and holds to this day.
Jim inspires and influences people around the globe from his position as Executive Director of KFI. From a small town in rural, northern Maine to cities and towns in Idaho, North Dakota, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Virginia, and across the nation, Jim Meehan was uniquely qualified and more than worthy to receive APSE’s prestigious Professional Award.