New Abilities First director aims to empower people as early as possible in life

October 23—David Hood was director of Serve City, a homeless agency and food pantry in Hamilton, for two years.

But he wanted a different path in his professional life.

“Serve City is a great place,” said Hood, 50, who replaced Linda Kimble, who served as manager until her death in June 2020. “I got to a certain point where I gave it my all. that I had to give there.”

So Hood, a pastor for 20 years, landed at Abilities First, a Middletown-based agency that opened in 1958. He was recently hired as executive director, replacing 64-year-old Jan Rosebrough, the director who died this summer.

During his two years at Serve City, Hood often thought about how different customers’ lives might have been if someone had invested in them as kids.

“Could we have avoided some of this sooner?” He asked. “What if there was a support system in place so that some of these challenges could have been overcome earlier in life?”

Then Hood’s mind flashed back to a conversation he had overheard between a homeless client and a social worker in the Serve City Community Hall. The person said to the worker, “You are the mother I always wished I had.”

It must have been gratifying for the woman to hear, but also unsettling.

“We are all products of our environment,” Hood said. “Good and bad.”

He took over from an agency that has faced “incredible challenges” in recent years, he said. Abilities First went through a major leadership rebuild, then services were disrupted by COVID-19, then the director passed away.

Hood believes that Abilities First can pursue its mission of enabling individuals and families living with different abilities to discover and realize their unique potential.

He wanted to meet all the staff individually. They all speak with the same voice. They all have a connection with Abilities First. They know someone who received services there. So they stayed. Some for 30 years.

“It’s less about the pay and the job and more about the mission,” Hood said.

Abilities First has what Hood called “laser focus”. It focuses on physical, occupational, and speech therapy, early childhood learning center, autism center, and a preschool/daycare that intentionally includes children with and without special needs.

Hood and his high school sweetheart wife, Julie, have been married for 31 years and have four adult children and four grandchildren. They recently purchased their first home near the Middletown-Monroe border. A few months later they had to replace their HVAC system.

Hood, the son of a preacher, had always lived in a house provided by the church.

“Don’t I just call a (church) administrator?” he laughs when asked about home repairs. “Isn’t that how it works?”

When their youngest son graduated from college, David and Julie Hood talked about their next career. She works in the medical department of Best Point Education & Behavioral Health in Cincinnati.

“We can be whoever we want,” he told his wife. “Who do we want to be? »

Then he answered his own question, “Let’s go to the places where Jesus would have gone and be with those people where Jesus would have gone.”

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