Northeast Arc recently honored team members celebrating milestone anniversaries. Two employees, Susan Truesdale and Donna Marden, marked 40 years with the agency. Learn more about their careers and their incredible impact on the individuals and families the agency supports.
Four Decades of Improving Lives
For four decades, Susan Truesdale has progressed from one department to another at Northeast Arc, leaving her mark on countless participants and staff members.
Though she spent most of her career in personal care management, Truesdale now serves as quality assurance and compliance specialist. She started working part-time at Northeast Arc in 1983, while she was a student at Boston University, where she earned her degree in psychology.
“Thanks to a neighbor’s suggestion, I started out doing relief in the residential program and I was able to work around my school schedule,” said Truesdale, a Peabody native. “It just fit, so I stayed. What I fell into turned out to be what I loved.”
From residential, Truesdale transitioned to day services and then personal care management.
“I always had a love for independent living and that philosophy, so that’s what drew me over to personal care management,” she said. “It was wonderful to go into people’s homes and help them.”
It was Truesdale’s wish to eventually move into compliance.
“I was already dealing with MassHealth regulations and training staff, and I was already invested that we were meeting compliance,” she said. “It just fit what I was looking for my next step. Plus, I like analyzing data and figuring out where things are at.”
Truesdale earned her master’s degree in health, law and policy from Hofstra University in 2020, and Northeast Arc created a new position for her.
“In 40 years, they’ve worked with me, making sure my needs are being met, as well as their needs,” said Truesdale. “It’s really allowed me to grow.”
And just as she has grown, so has the organization.
“The agency keeps trying to improve, and that’s really important to me,” said Truesdale. “I stayed and the company kept changing.”
She laughs, thinking about some of the technological advances. “We used to have to carry huge map books to go from house to house, and stop to make calls at a phone booth,” she said. “Things have certainly progressed.”
Helping People Navigate Journeys
With more than 40 years’ experience at Northeast Arc, Donna Marden is showing no signs of slowing down.
In fact, she’s not even hanging up her running shoes, having run the Boston Marathon to raise money for the organization in 2019.
“I enjoy the individuals we serve,” she said. “That’s what keeps me here.”
Marden is program director of Journeys, a community-based day support program designed to help adult participants develop the skills necessary to access the community safely, become productive members of the community and enhance employment skills. These supports are provided through volunteering, work tours and employment classes.
Journeys participants are volunteering at organizations such as Haven from Hunger in Peabody, the Peabody Institute Library of Danvers and the Great Rock Thrift Store in Danvers. There have also been internship opportunities at Breaking Grounds Café, which offers extensive employment training and education to those with disabilities. Some have gone on to work at restaurants such as Yard House and Sea Level Oyster Bar.
“It gives them experience and teaches them social skills and work skills,” said Marden.
Marden, a Danvers native, earned her degree in special education from Westfield State University. She started working for the organization part-time in the family support division. She was hired full-time in 1984 and worked in direct care for six years. She then transitioned to become program coordinator and later program director in the day services division.
Marden says she enjoys the direct interaction with the individuals, but also the staff training as well. She is also in awe of how Northeast Arc has changed and progressed.
“It’s been amazing watching it grow over the years, especially with community involvement, and seeing the services evolve,” she said.