They say that all good things must come to an end. This is surely the case for as they say goodbye to Executive Director Diane Cummings when she retires later this year. Several staff members attended Diane’s surprise retirement party last week. How in the world the entire community kept that a secret, I have no idea.
Diane was born in Middlesex County (in England, not Connecticut) and graduated from Morley College in London. When she and her husband moved to Connecticut in 1976, she ran an antique shop in East Haddam.
Diane’s focus then turned towards the nonprofit world, and she would never look back. Over the years, Diane has worked for Community Action for Greater Middletown, Head Start, The Connection, Inc., and the Maritime Education Network. While this last position brought her to Old Saybrook, Diane longed to return to Middletown.
In 2006 Diane joined St. Luke’s as Volunteer Coordinator and became Executive Director in 2007. The organization was a two-person operation at that time and included a small client and volunteer base. Since then, Diane has overseen a burst of growth to nearly 300 volunteers and more than 400 clients as well as nine staff.
St. Luke’s Home began in 1865 and provided safe, secure housing for low-income seniors and individuals that are disabled. The Middletown home still exists today and includes 25 units. Flash forward to 1984, and a community outreach program was established to help homebound seniors and veterans maintain independent lives. Trained and carefully screened volunteers assist individuals with transportation to medical appointments, minor home repairs, and friendly visiting.
The organization continues to grow and find new ways to help including the Gatekeeper program which educates community members to identify seniors who may be at risk, Access4Care which fills the gaps in existing transportation services, and Vets4Vets, their latest initiative providing veterans with free, reliable transportation to medical care.
“My time with St. Luke’s has been the most rewarding position I have ever held. It is a small but powerful agency that accomplishes so much through the support of our amazing volunteers,” Diane says. “The people we help are mostly low income elderly that do not have any means of support. They are the generation that made this country great. Many lived through the depression, fought wars and believed in the American Dream, never expecting to find themselves in the position of having to ask for help.
“All of our programs are designed to help these people live their lives with dignity,” Diane continues, “We are proud that we continue to offer all of our programs free of charge.”
Diane will give credit to her staff, volunteers, and board of directors for the organization’s success, but there’s no doubt Diane’s leadership is at the center of it. We wish her much happiness as she retires to Vermont with her husband to spend time with her daughter’s family.