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Wayne Post
  • Founder, CEO of Heritage Christian Services to retire

  • Robert Pieters, founder, president and C.E.O. of Heritage Christian Services, will retire Dec. 31 after 26 years of service, leaving a legacy of agency growth and vitality.

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  • Robert Pieters, founder, president and C.E.O. of Heritage Christian Services, will retire Dec. 31 after 26 years of service, leaving a legacy of agency growth and vitality.
    Pieters, named the 2010 Executive of the Year by the Rochester Business Journal, will continue to serve Heritage Christian by joining its board in 2013. His successor will be Marisa Geitner, who became executive vice president and chief operating officer in 2005 as part of a strategic executive succession plan for the agency, which ranks fourth in non-profits in Monroe County.
    “We spent years planning so that we could start this organization, and we’ve also spent several years preparing for this transition in leadership,” Pieters said. “We believe we owe it to the people we support and to their families to ensure this agency is strong, not just for today but for the future.”
    The story of how the agency began is a time honored one amongst Heritage Christian’s families. In 1980, Pieters and his wife, Marie, banded with other parents who had children with developmental disabilities to start a Christian-based non-profit, mortgaging their homes and partnering with church communities to open their first neighborhood home four years later.
    Once Pieters became president in 1986, he spent more than two decades growing the agency from four homes to more than 100 facilities and eventually operating on a budget in excess of $55-million. HCS continues to specialize in disabilities services - including residential homes, day habitation, respite care and Medicaid service coordination – but it has diversified its operations and extended its high quality of service to other ventures including: Springdale Farm, the Pieters Family Life Center, Expressive Beginnings Child Care and Heritage Christian Stables. It now serves more than 1,700 children and adults.
    In addition, for the past 10 years the NYS Office for People With Developmental Disabilities has ranked Heritage Christian in the top 1 percent out of more than 800 providers statewide. Nationally, Heritage Christian Services has been recognized with the prestigious 2009 Community Builder award from the American Network of Community Options and Resources for its capacity to model and influence inclusive communities for people with disabilities.
    Pieters said that the future is bright and that he looks forward to staying close to the agency through his board service and family involvement. “Heritage Christian has never been one to rest on its laurels,” Pieters said. “I’m proud of where this agency has come from, and I know I’ll be proud of where it is going.”
    Marisa Geitner has served the agency for 19 years and has lead the agency through many firsts, including the launch of a new day program model, building an organizational development department to support 1,400 employees and now guiding HCS and similar agencies through a complex Medicaid redesign. Geitner, too, is one of Rochester Business Journal’s Forty Under 40 and an esteemed ATHENA honoree, recognized by the Rochester Business Alliance’s Women’s Council in 2011.
    Page 2 of 2 - Heritage Christian Services is a thriving human services agency that supports children and adults with disabilities; provides high quality child care; and matches business owners with talented workers who have developmental disabilities.
    The agency now operates 70 neighborhood homes, service coordination, respite, community habilitation and 26 day programs and has been recognized by the Office for People With Developmental Disabilities as one of New York state's top service providers to people with special needs.
    Heritage Christian Services is known for innovative programs like the Pieters Family Life Center and Expressive Beginnings Child Care in Henrietta, Springdale Farm in Ogden, Heritage Christian Stables in Webster, A Second Thought Resale Shop in East Rochester, Heritage Hollow on Sixth Lake in Inlet and Little Valley Retreat Center near Allegany State Park.
    The agency’s state-of-the-art wellness center was named in honor of the Pieters family because of their pioneering work in the field of developmental disabilities. Robert and Marie Pieters helped start one of the first parent advocacy groups in the Rochester area, and Heritage Christian was the first local agency to welcome adults with disabilities who were also medically frail.
    The Pieters Family Life Center was recognized with the prestigious 2009 Community Builder award from the American Network of Community Options and Resources for its capacity to model and influence inclusive communities for people with disabilities.
    Heritage Christian employs 1,400 people – which puts it at number 13 in Monroe County for non-profits and 22nd for private-sector employers, according to the Rochester Business Journal’s 2011 Book of Lists.
    The agency’s budget puts it fourth on the list of non-profits, according the RBJ. Besides serving 1,700 children and adults with disabilities, the agency also: Welcomes 40,000 visitors to Springdale Farm in Ogden each year; Offers overnight stays to 2,200 people a year at Respitelodge (one of its two respite homes); Organizes 1,400 volunteers each year – for a total of 20,000 volunteer hours; Carries 900 pounds of gifts to people with disabilities in Guatemala, thanks in part to profits from A Second Thought Resale Shop in East Rochester; Hosts 100 riders each year at Heritage Christian Stables in Webster; Partners with more than 75 other groups at the Pieters Family Life Center in Henrietta; Provides child care to more than 100 children at Expressive Beginnings Child Care in Henrietta.
    For more information, visit www.heritagechristianservices.org.
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