On December 27, 2012, the members, staff, board, trustees and – most especially – the adults and children with intellectual and developmental disabilities served by Arc Gateway suffered a huge loss. Donna Fassett, executive director of the charitable service organization since 1993, lost her hard fought battle with an extended illness, with her loving husband and soul mate, Charlie, by her side - as always - for comfort and support.
Those who were fortunate enough to work with Donna will remember her as a dear friend, a passionate mentor for the field of social work, a determined activist of people with disabilities, and a tireless volunteer for numerous local charities from the Great Gulfcoast Arts Festival to Rotary, Fiesta and more.
She left behind an organization of 136 employees, nearly 100 volunteers and serving more than 800 people with disabilities. Donna personally touched the lives of every person served by the agency – knowing them all by name, and in most cases, knowing the whole unique stories of their lives.
Donna never turned anyone away – her door was always open. Even during the darkest times of her illness, Donna let everyone know that she was just a phone call away. And she never failed to say how appreciative she was for what the staff did each day to improve the lives of the people served at Arc Gateway.
"Donna was an advocate for those more challenged than most of us. She believed that all people deserve the opportunity to reach their goals, and because of what I learned from Donna, I am privileged to advocate for those who can not advocate for themselves," said Pat Young, Arc Gateway president and trustee.
No words can adequately express our sadness at her death, or our gratitude for the opportunity to work beside her. We will honor her memory by dedicating ourselves to continuing the service to which she dedicated more than 33 years of her life.
Many have heard Donna refer to Arc as the Association of "Remarkable" Citizens. She remains the most remarkable of us all. Her spirit will carry the organization on, not only in the hearts of the staff and volunteers, but in the lives of those served by Arc Gateway – the children and adults with disabilities.
When interviewed by Tina Horton of Climate Magazine in the 1999 article titled "Top 25 Power Women in Northwest Florida Business" Donna was asked about her guiding philosophy. Her response was:
"Actually I have two basic philosophies. The first is never to ask someone to do something you yourself would not do. Leading by example and being willing to pitch in to help get the job done have always been part of my management style. I realize that each of us has something special to contribute, and I work to encourage opportunities for everyone to contribute his or her skills to the continued success of our workplace.
"My other belief is that we each have responsibility to our business and to our families to take an active role in our community. By this, I mean volunteering to help others, working with youth groups, civic organizations and community events. I am involved in a number of organizations and activities, not only because it's fun but also because the quality of life we enjoy in Pensacola is important to me. If we don't take responsibility for making our community a better place to live, then we have no one to blame but ourselves."
33 Years of Service & 33 Life Lessons And Beliefs
There are so many memories and so many
lessons I have learned over the years that I felt the need to share. But the best lessons and beliefs have come from the people we serve – they will always be in my heart.
1. We all have dreams.
2. We all have talents.
3. We all have abilities.
4. We all need to be heard
5. We are all capable.
6. We all belong.
7. Every day I am blessed in hundreds of ways by hundreds of people.
8. I am grateful for our caring and compassionate staff and volunteers.
9. Hugs brighten my day.
10. Every day is a celebration.
11. Small achievements = biggest rewards.
12. Arc is a family—my family.
13. I believe in the mission of ARC Gateway.
14. Every idea is worth exploring.
15. Laughter is good medicine.
16. Relationships are what matter most.
17. We are all links in life’s chain.
18. Every person has worth, everyone has value.
19. The world is ours to explore.
20. Be passionate about what you do.
21. The best thing in life is doing what others say you can’t.
22. Show people you care by what you do.
23. There are no strangers.
24. One can never wear too many hats or have too many black shoes.
25. I am fortunate to live in a community where people reach out to one another.
26. Everything is better with ice cream.
27. Prayers work.
28. When things get tough—Yankee up!
29. Everyone deserves a chance.
30. Never give up!
31. Look for the best in everyone.
32. I am thankful for Charlie and the support of my family and friends.
33. I am thankful for thirty-three wonderful years.