Dayton is the proud home of multiple, exceptional beer festivals. They kick off in March with AleFeast, pairing fine craft beers with some of the best local cuisine in Dayton. Dayton Beer Week is the big week of beer love in the Miami Valley, with most of the restaurants in town participating in some way. It starts with a beer parade, and ends with AleFest, a day filled with amazing beers from over a hundred breweries. Many of you may even be going to Oktoberfest this weekend at the Dayton Art Institute, another great downtown festival in celebration of German culture, including their fine selection of beers. All of the fans of barley and hops need to save a little room for one more beer festival. Big Beers and Barleywines will be coming up on October 5th, and there are two very particular reasons to support this great event.
One huge reason is how unique the beers will be. This is the event for the craft beer fanatic. Many of the other events showcase a wide variety of beers and breweries, giving patrons an extensive range of popular beers to sample. Big Beers takes a different path, focusing on some of the biggest flavored and rarest beers that can be found in the country. There are 150 beers to choose from, with more unique beers being released on the Facebook page all the time. Some recent releases are Oskar Blue’s Ten Fidy imperial stout, aged for nine months in Four Roses bourbon barrels, Bell’s Black Note, Goose Island Halia, a saison with peach and aged in wine barrels, and Elevator Bar Bar Barleywine. All of these beers are not just delightful to try, but are hard to come by outside of their region or festivals like this one.
The other compelling reason is the charity it supports. The Resident Home Association has been helping adults in Dayton with developmental disabilities since 1966. They provide everything from housing and trips to work to cookouts and ladies pampering classes. They have not just developed a community focused non-profit; they have developed a family that helps each other. Five years ago Peter Roll, the Executive Director of the RHA, was offered an opportunity to partner with old friends of his. Mike and Donna Schwartz, longtime supporters of the RHA and owners of Belmont Party Supply, wanted to have a beer tasting to help raise funds for the non-profit. That beer tasting grew into what we now call Big Beers and Barleywines. Mr. Roll went into greater depth about the organization and what it provides in a conversation I had with him.
Brian Petro: Tell me a little of your background. Are you a Dayton native? Where did you go to school? What did you go to school for?
Peter Roll: I am a native Daytonian. I graduated from Chaminade Julienne High School in 1974-the first graduating class after the merger of Chaminade and Julienne High Schools. While sorting my way through college I worked at the Dayton Children’s Psychiatric Hospital and the St. Josephs Treatment Center. After Graduating from the University of Dayton I was hired by Sally Young at the Montgomery County Board of Developmental Disability Services as a Case Manager. It was in my role as a case manager that I became aware of RHA. I knew that if I was to leave the county and work in residential services, Resident Home was the only place I would consider.
BP: What brought you to the Resident Home Association?
PR: As a case manager for the county I had the opportunity to see many residential programs and Resident Home clearly stood out as the best residential provider organization in the area if not the State of Ohio. In 1987 the directors of RHA, Shirley Fowler and Brenda Whitney recruited me and convinced to come to Resident Home. The push for quality services and a well trained and experienced work force were already in place when I arrived in October 1987 and made my decision an easy one. I gave up job security with public benefits to come to a place that puts the care of its residents above everything else. In retrospect I could not have made a better decision and I hope I have contributed to the success of the agency.
BP: How has the RHA changed over the last four decades? Have there been any social developments that have impacted how the organization has grown?
PR: When I arrived we had the capacity to serve 72 people in 9 different locations. We now have the capacity to provide residential services to 80 people in 13 locations. We had some of our more independent people living in an apartment complex in Kettering when I arrived, but because of aging issues, we moved those residents into 2 homes to better look after their health and safety needs. That move occurred in 2007. We also moved 2 homes off of East Third Street. One in 2005 and the other in 2010. Both of these moves were made to provide safer neighborhoods for our residents and to provide homes that were more accessible. In addition to those significant changes we have added new services such as adult day services, transportation services and we are still one of the few agencies providing respite care services. Even as we expanded the number of people served and the types of services offered, we will not put expansion ahead of the quality we strive to provide. Our feeling is that you have to serve within your means and sometimes bigger and more is not always best.
BP: In 2001, the RHA became part of Partners for Community Living. What was the impetus for that move? How has it benefitted all parties involved?
PR: Partners for Community Living is a partnership between the Resident Home and Choices in Community Living that grew out of a philosophy that sometimes it’s easier and more efficient to manage resources in certain areas together that you may not be able to do well or at all, if you attempted to do so individually. It was with this mindset that Partners for Community was formed. Each agency maintains its own identity but we also share resources in such areas as establishing an endowment, having a shared volunteer program, utilizing the same staff to put out newsletters, participate in fund raising events and provide wish lists and “fun raising” events for residents of both agencies. We are now in our 11th year and this venture has been extremely valuable to us as it greatly adds to the quality of life for those we serve.
BP: What projects is your organization currently working on?
PR: Right now we are in the midst of a technological transformation. All of our homes have had computers for years but we were not using our electronic capabilities to the point where we could store information. For the past few summers we have been scanning paper records to our servers (in a three week period 50,000 documents) but even as we were doing this our paper continued to grow. We are now evaluating systems that will help us electronically document our daily services and store our information. We are investing in new servers, time systems and electronic medication administration record keeping. This sounds pretty dry but it is very important for us to convert to systems that help us manage and retain our records while at the same time make us more environmentally efficient.
BP: Your organization has over 5,000 hours of volunteer work done each year. What are you looking for in your volunteers? Any skill sets you are in need of or just people willing to help?
PR: We need people of all types to help us out and volunteers are very much appreciated regardless of their skill sets. Everyone has something to offer and we many programs they could choose from that would benefit our agency and those we serve. We have Friends by Choice which is our version of Big Brothers/Big Sisters. We have Adopt–A-Home where an individual or group could pick a location and help with activities, landscaping, etc. We always need help with our events, newsletter mailings and grounds clean-up. Nutritionists, exercise and healthy living, music and art appreciation are other examples of volunteers we could use.
BP: What are the biggest challenges you see for the RHA in the future?
PR: Funding and workforce development. As it stands now our funding sources barely keep pace with our expenses. With new rules, unfunded mandates and the pending impact of the federal healthcare law, we will find it very difficult to make ends meet. We also have an aging workforce especially in the management area and we really need to have some of our folks assume leadership positions. This is also a funding issue. Right now our funders expect quality but don’t want to fund adequate levels of supervision. In addition wages for direct service workers are not what they should be and the push to increase minimum wages has a detrimental effect on us as we are competing for some of the same workers but our expectations are some much higher than the typical minimum wage jobs yet our pay scales our similar. This causes some potential workers to take positions that are less demanding at a similar level of pay.
BP: What is your favorite part of the event?
PR: For me my most favorite parts are the way Mike and his employees, especially Natalie Phillips, embraces the festival but more importantly our mission. They really care about what we do and the people we serve. Their desire to obtain the finest products available to support our cause is sometimes overwhelming. I also like to see the pure enjoyment of the patrons. The smiles, laughter and goodwill gestures are very endearing.
BP: What are your favorite beers to enjoy?
PR: I’m certainly not a great beer connoisseur but I have grown to appreciate porters and stouts.
Dayton has a long history of supporting original industrial and business pursuits as well as creating a strong community that lifts up those that need it. For the price of one ticket, you get to sample some of the best beers in the country as well as help a great local organization. The event itself takes place at the Roundhouse in the Montgomery County Fairgrounds, October 5th from 4PM to 8 PM. All of the proceeds generated by Big Beers and Barleywines go to the RHA, to help them continue to provide the outstanding service that the community has come to expect from them to an even wider range of adults in need. It is a once a year opportunity that is not to be missed.