While some people hold onto their jobs for the money or benefits, Rob Crick has a special reason for staying at Damar Services for 35 years.
“The kids have kept me here,” he said. And he calls all patients at the center kids, regardless of their age. “I’ve been here so long that some of the kids I started with are now out on their own. I still stay in touch.”
Damar Services, a nonprofit that serves children and adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities, operates its main 44-acre campus on the Southwestside. Offerings also include autism and foster care services, two schools and a class program, where clients are visited at home to make sure they are doing OK.
“I’m very proud of what we have to offer,” he said. “Our recidivism rate is very low. I’m also proud of that and how our kids move on in their lives in a positive direction.”
Crick, who started in direct care, has been promoted numerous times. He initially worked for Damar from late 1979 to early 1980 before leaving for a more lucrative job and subsequently returning in January 1983.
“I remembered how much I liked working with the kids, that’s why I went back,” he said. “Since I was one of the few men who worked with the children, I got to play football in mud with them and take them fishing. I helped them with their daily living skills. The kids are everything.”
Today he’s the senior training specialist and spends most of his time working with new employees on therapeutic crisis intervention and critical moment training. He also shares his knowledge with other agencies that caters to disabled kids, and he goes into families’ homes to train parents on how to work with children who are disabled and/or exhibit aggressive behaviors.
“I still work with the kids some, but not as much as I would like to,” said Click, who has worked with many thousands of children over the years.
“Rob has made a lifelong impact in the lives of countless kids and families,” said Damar President and CEO Jim Dalton. “He embodies Damar’s notion that this is more than a job, it’s a mission.”
Crick has entertained some attractive offers from other companies over the years, but he can’t pull himself away from Damar’s environment.
He describes his co-workers as family. “There are a few who have worked here as long as I have. And I see them more than I do my family.”
The exception to that is his wife, Erin, who he sees at home and at work. They met at Damar and have been married nine years. Erin, an 11-year employee, serves as the administrative director of the children’s residential facility.
“She’s wonderful with the kids, staff and everyone she comes involved with,” Crick said. “She’s highly regarded.”
He has two children, Alisha, from a previous marriage, and Robby III, 8, with Erin.
When asked about his interests away from work, Crick laughingly said, “Our son is our hobby. He plays baseball, basketball and football and is in a reading club. It’s our job to make sure he stays active.”
The Crick home serves as the gathering place for the neighborhood children. “They all know they can get a snack here and play games. I’m wondering if I can write off one or two of them on my taxes?”
Although retirement isn’t in the foreseeable future, it’s something that Crick thinks about. And thinking further down the road, he says, “When I die, I want people to remember that Rob Crick enjoyed working with kids.”