Each July, you are likely to read the words “Happy New Year” from me, not because I can’t keep my months straight but because July is the beginning of ACA’s fiscal and programmatic year. This is the month we welcome our newest volunteers and leaders who are beginning 12 months of service to the association. Their time, dedication and desire to advance the profession will see even greater validation as they move into roles that help promote the work of professional counselors.
Leading our volunteer ranks this year is Simone Lambert, who is serving as our 67th president. I have known Simone for many years, and her desire to engage and include many of you will reap a number of benefits for our members, for the profession and for those whom counselors serve. Simone is someone who constantly works toward creating an inclusive and welcoming environment. The staff and I look forward to working with her as she begins her term as ACA president.
In addition, we want to welcome our new and continuing volunteers serving at the branch, region, division and national levels. Literally thousands of you have chosen to go that extra mile to serve on committees, task forces or interest networks and in various leadership roles. And with so much work to be done, we look forward to engaging even more of you in the coming year.
Even as I write about new beginnings for many of you in volunteer roles, I must note that someone very special will be concluding his journey with ACA this month. During the 30 years I have been at ACA, I have met, worked with and said goodbye to many, many fellow employees. Very few of them have been with me for all three of my decades at ACA. However, one of my staff colleagues has been here that entire time — plus 17 years more.
Patrick Belle has had a number of responsibilities since beginning his career at ACA on March 3, 1971. For 47 years, Patrick has seen the good, the bad and the ugly at ACA. Even in times when the association was facing some dire situations, Patrick always came to work with a smile on his face and a commitment to his job that was both impressive and inspirational. His desire to help colleagues, volunteer leaders and others has been consistent throughout his more than four decades of service to our organization.
When Patrick came to the United States back in 1971 from his beloved Trinidad, I doubt that he imagined his career at ACA would encompass 49 ACA presidents, five CEOs and four moves of our national headquarters. And when Patrick leaves us on July 20, we will not be the same. Being a part of us for so long, knowing our history (because he was actually there when things happened) and witnessing so many of our transitions (including our evolution from the American Personnel and Guidance Association to the American Association for Counseling and Development and, finally, to the American Counseling Association) qualifies Patrick as an “ACA treasure.”
Many of Patrick’s colleagues on staff know him as a consummate professional who always approaches his work as our office services manager with a positive attitude and a desire to solve problems. He is an adviser, he is a friend and, to one of our staff members, he is even a husband. Although I may serve as the association’s chief executive officer, Patrick is the “father” of our ACA family. That is not a title bestowed by our Governing Council; it is one that is earned based on many years of providing advice, support and commitment.
I am confident many of our volunteer leaders (past and present) and the entire ACA staff join me in wishing Patrick the very best. I am personally appreciative of all he has done for me over the years, and he is certainly someone who deserves the best that life has to offer.