Connections - 05.31.22

Comings & Goings: May 2022

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by Jerri McCandless, ANCOR

Comings & Goings is an ongoing feature of Connections in which we highlight exciting changes happening at ANCOR member agencies and state associations.

Stone Belt (Bloomington, IL)

Photo of Leslie Green

Stone Belt, a chapter of The Arc, is the oldest and largest agency of its kind in Southern Indiana, maintaining lifelong learning, employment, residential and mental health programs in multiple counties.

Leslie Green (left), Stone Belt’s CEO, retired on April 1, 2022. Leslie has served as CEO of Stone Belt since 2000. Prior to becoming the organization’s third executive leader, she held a variety of leadership roles within the organization since joining the agency in 1979. One of Leslie’s greatest passions during the last decade is Stone Belt’s highly visible and thriving arts program. It has given many individuals with disabilities the opportunity to become successful professional artists in the community.

Photo of Bitta DeWees

Bitta DeWees (right) was named as the agency’s new CEO. She brings 31 years of experience with Stone Belt and the field of disability services to her new role. Upon Bitta’s appointment as CEO, Leslie Green said, “Bitta will apply her skills and compassion to the advancement of Stone Belt. It is great to know that Stone Belt is in such capable hands.” Bitta began her career there in 1990 and has held various leadership positions at the agency, including director of employment, director of service development and, most recently, chief operating officer.

Bitta recently stated, “I am very excited to be the new CEO of Stone Belt! Stone Belt has had incredible CEOs since our formation 63 years ago, from Joan Burton to Elbert Johns to Leslie Green. I am very happy to have the opportunity to follow in all of their footsteps. I care deeply about the clients, families, staff, and Board of Directors of Stone Belt and look forward to working with all parties to lead Stone Belt through our next chapter.” 


COF Training Services, Inc. (Ottawa, KS)

Photo of Patrick GardnerChristopher Patton, Executive Director since 2011, has recently retired from his role. Patrick Gardner (left), who has been with COF since 2013 in various leadership positions such as Area Director, Director of Operations and, most recently, Associate Director, became Executive Director as of April 1.

“I am grateful to the Board of Directors, Christopher Patton and my COF family for believing in me and for the confidence in my leadership,” said Gardner. “We have an outstanding group of employees at COF and I believe our future is bright.”



Echoing Hope Ranch (Hereford, AZ)

Photo of Amanda Paddock

Scott Pralinsky, previously Executive Director of Echoing Hills Ranch, recently accepted the same position at Grow Associates, and Amanda Paddock (right) was named Executive Director, Operations. Amanda earned her Bachelor’s degree from the University of Alaska Fairbanks in Wildlife Biology and gained experience in research and conservation.

In Germany, Amanda was employed as a para-educator working with students with developmental disabilities and fell in love with working one-on-one with those individuals. She then worked for a city zoo in New York State. That experience helped grow an appreciation of how education inspires preservation of wildlife and the environment.

Amanda gained management experience at a large specialty Vet Hospital in Washington State, making the connection between quality service and customer satisfaction. She is excited to combine her passions and skills at Echoing Hope Ranch.


Grow Associates (Randolph, MA)

Photo of Scott Pralinsky

Scott Pralinsky is now Executive Director at Grow Associates. He comes to Grow Associates from Echoing Hope Ranch in Arizona, where he took the organization from zero in the bank to doubling their revenues, expanded programming, added additional revenue streams, and reduced the staff turnover rate from 78.4% down to 12%.   

Scott began his career in Boston as a streetworker, developed a mentoring program at Rikers Island for young inmates, and worked as a Chaplain in a prison hospital in Massachusetts. After 13 years in the Air Force, he found himself in Costa Rica where he founded a nonprofit called Tropical Adventures / Casa Milagro Foundation to support people, wildlife and the environment countrywide. This holistic approach included working with underage homeless sex trafficking victims.

Have news about retirements, appointments, celebrations, mergers, acquisitions and more? Email items for Comings & Goings to Jerri McCandless at [email protected].