By JESSICA WETZLER
Daily News-Record 1/9/21
On a cold December afternoon, Nancy Hopkins-Garriss waited outside of Pleasant View’s Day Program entrance in Broadway.
For 35 years, Hopkins-Garriss brought new life to Pleasant View and for the individuals who called it home.
On Dec. 30, she waited — a concept she wasn’t used to. In a few moments, a line of cars arrived filled with community members and Pleasant View clients to wish her farewell.
Her time to retire had approached.
“She was well respected,” said Mary Haliburton, mother of a Pleasant View resident and former employee.
As cars drove by for her retirement parade, Hopkins-Garriss said she thought about how important those visitors had been to her throughout the years.
“It’s just a realization as I’m seeing all these people of how much it’s really been a community effort and a team effort to make Pleasant View what it is and to help us do the services we have been blessed to be able to do,” she said. “There isn’t any way that one or two people could do the kinds of things that need to be done to help the community serve people.”
Hopkins-Garriss found her way to Pleasant View after working for Friendship Industries, a nonprofit packaging company in Harrisonburg that employs people with disabilities. The two organizations share a common practice — giving a chance to those with disabilities.
Founded in 1971, Pleasant View provides support to individuals who remain in their own homes or can live on their own. Through residential support services, Pleasant View provides intensive, individualized training to those with intellectual disabilities and at least one other disability, according to its website.
Hopkins-Garriss said one of the things that stood out to her during her time at Pleasant View was watching its clients grow as individuals.
“People with developmental disabilities have so many gifts and talents and one of the things that I have been pleased with is Pleasant View’s ability to pull those talents out of them,” she said. “When I was first in this field, most of the people who had emotional disabilities would not have much schooling.”
The outgoing executive director said many individuals have interests and hobbies and are able to talk about their hopes and dreams. There are also clients who hold jobs in the community and volunteered before the COVID-19 pandemic.
“They are able to have the same kind of life and same kinds of interest that anybody who wants to have those interests can have,” she said.
But as Hopkins-Garriss admitted, it takes a village to accomplish the nonprofit’s work. To others, Hopkins-Garriss takes home a lot of credit.
Haliburton started working for Pleasant View in 1999 after her daughter moved to one of the residential locations in the early 1990s.
For 18 years, Haliburton not only worked with Hopkins-Garriss but communicated with her as a parent.
“I couldn’t say anything negative about her,” she said. “She tried to or did set up things that were good to clients. She seemed to know everybody’s name and I’ve never known to have a negative experience.”
Outside of Pleasant View, John Knepper, with Trumbo Electric, said Hopkins-Garriss was a strong advocate for the developmental disability industry.
Knepper said he began working with Hopkins-Garriss through their local rotary club and has known her for 12 years.
“She is a very kind, compassionate person,” he said. “She is committed to anything she is involved with. Under her tenure, Pleasant View has grown. She has done a great job and is certainly leaving big shoes to fill.”
Those shoes will be filled by Kevin Paluszak, who took over as executive director Monday.
Paluszak said Hopkins-Garriss’ diligently and sacrificially laid a foundation of caring, success and life- changing opportunities for individuals of all abilities, adding that it is a “humbling honor” to walk in her shoes.
“As Pleasant View embraces the future, we hope to build upon the legacy established through Nancy’s spirit, example and commitment,” he said. “We remain focused upon our mission, vision and values while forging forward to meet the challenges of an ever- evolving service delivery system.”
As Hopkins-Garriss entered into retirement, she said she is grateful to the community for supporting Pleasant View and hoped to be able to travel in the future.
“I am sure I will find some meaningful ways to contribute as time goes on, I hope to,” she said.