Cortney’s Place is celebrating our 10-year anniversary all year long, and as we move into our next decade, we’re pleased to introduce Timothy Bolen, our new Chief Executive Officer. In this role, Tim is responsible for Cortney’s Place day-to-day operations, grants, marketing, and development activities, donor and government relations, and serves as the organization’s liaison to the Board of Directors. Tim recently sat down for this interview and shared information on his background in the non-profit world, specifically his ties to those with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) and his vision for Cortney’s Place.

Q: First and foremost, welcome aboard! Can you share about your background in the non-profit world and how you found your way to Cortney’s Place? You come to us from Best Buddies, an international non-profit that serves individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities) .

A: It began almost 12 years ago through a small non-profit I had the opportunity to learn and volunteer with called Chances for Children AZ. A few years later, I created and promoted a 12-hour mountain bike event that raised funds for the Sydney Hudson Foundation. I also promoted a few charity sprint triathlons for two charities. Shortly after, I had an opportunity to join Best Buddies as the Development Director but within three short months, I was promoted to State Director for Best Buddies, Arizona. It’s an amazing international organization but my position managed the state operations.

In March 2017, I personally founded 2Gether We Live Inc, a 501c3 nonprofit that provides athletic experiences for individuals with IDD, severe illness and wounded veterans, all through the love of volunteers. In July 2017, I met with Michael Mallace, the Board Chairman of Cortney’s Place. Shortly after, I met with Cindy Carpenter, the Founder. I instantly fell in love with Cortney’s Place because of the vision, love, and passion that Michael and Cindy shared!

Q: Can you talk about some of the work you did at Best Buddies and some of the innovative programs you helped to develop there?

A: The mission of Best Buddies is inclusion. That’s the core mission; including individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities – Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Asperger’s, Down’s Syndrome to name a few – creating that true feeling of being integrated and part of a school culture, at a job, or at an event. This mission resonated for me, as everyone must feel they matter! The school program is pairing students with IDD with students without.  The chapter within the school aims to facilitate an entire shift in the culture of that school, to be more accepting of the students in the special education classrooms while also forming one to one friendships. In Arizona we took that a step further, by creating monthly trainings with ambassadors. Ambassadors advocate for themselves and others with IDD. Without funding we still maintained the ambassadors program by also providing regular speaking opportunities at events, businesses, and assemblies. In addition, we advocated for employment for the IDD population. With my passion for sports we created multiple endurance sporting event fundraisers to integrate the IDD population in sports which once seemed impossible to complete if alone. We established platforms for the population so they would feel welcomed, accepted, and equal.  We increased events from three to over nine, reaching all income levels so that anyone could participate with the goal to impact more families. My greatest accomplishment however was not only increasing the overall impact on the total number of families and students served but the long-term relationships I gained during my six and a half year tenure with Best Buddies. Many that I would call true friends.

Q: So now you come to Cortney’s Place, a similar type of organization that serves the IDD community but very different work and program. Can you speak about how your experience with Best Buddies will translate here and maybe share some of your vision for Cortney’s Place?

A: The biggest thing I’ve learned after six and a half years of listening to thousands of parents is the real concern about what happens next when their child ages out of school at 22 years old? What’s next for them? Although very few specialty programs exist, there are mass numbers of parents that find themselves having to quit jobs to stay at home with their child – why is this? Because the disabilities system is simply broken. Every state should have mandatory programs to care for, educate, provide post-school learning, services to promote independence, and eventually employment and living independently. When the state has nearly 250,000 individuals living with intellectual and developmental disabilities (approximately 3% of the population), what happens with these individuals and families?  We must look at the ramification of not having establish programs for the continuation of growth, development, independence, and contribution within their communities. Truth is, many families who once lived with dual incomes find one parent having to stay home after their child ages out of school, these families often end up in poverty. This situation is even worse for single parents. This has a massive financial impact not only with these families but our economy as well. That’s where Cortney’s Place comes in. Cortney’s Place provides a clean, safe, and well-staffed day center for individuals with IDD. Currently, over 60% of the centers population have severe disabilities. Cortney’s Place was designed to provide education, community involvement, therapies, and a program to help each student thrive. Most importantly, it provides the opportunity for parents to stay employed while their child is cared for.

Q; Would you speak about what attracted you to come to Cortney’s Place?

A: Sure! I found myself in a strange transition after I left Best Buddies, unsure what path to take, I only knew that it had to serve either the IDD population or in nonprofit. Its where my heart is. I happened to meet one of the Chairman of the Board of Directors from Cortney’s Place, Michael Mallace. He came as a referral from one of my previous board members and friend, Gene Coffman with Best Buddies.  After talking with Michael, I could immediately feel the passion and love that he had for the future of Cortney’s Place, and of course, the founder, Cindy Carpenter. At that point, I knew I needed to climb onboard. It was that intimate caring feeling that I believed was missing in the corporate setting that comes with a global organization like Best Buddies, where you have the international office in Miami.  Please understand, I cherished everyday working for Best Buddies, the staff, and the mission. The attraction with Cortney’s Place is the program being local and the dire need. To have the opportunity to meet on a regular basis with a multitude of board members, the founders, and the parents, is a dream come true.  To communicate and bounce ideas off the leadership team, the decision makers, the founders, was a key factor with my decision. Here, I can exchange text messages with the founders or board members, staff, and even a few celebrities!  The best part of Cortney’s Place is the long-term vision! But you will have to stay tuned as we roll that out in the coming months.

Q: How excited are you to be here?

A: I am very thankful for this opportunity! So much work to be done, its challenging, and I look forward to doing many great things with Cortney’s Place and the amazing team that make up the organization.