By Elsie Walker
The first job Kevin Guyette of Mt. Arlington had during high school was writing for a weekly newspaper. Then, as a senior, she freelanced for the New Jersey section of the “New York Times” writing features. After school, she married a news photographer and built a public relations business.
Among their first clients were Riverside Hospital in Boonton, the Morris Museum and the National Association of Social Workers. About this time, Guyette became aware of the human services non-profit sector. Little did she know that would lead her to a passion that has lasted 25 years.
The Arc of Warren County became one of her clients. However, The Arc had a desperate need for fundraising planning and so Guyette was offered a full time position. She started in July 1991 as Public Relations director/development director. Today, she is director of Development and executive director of The Arc Foundation. She is celebrating her 25th anniversary year with the organization.
“From the beginning she impressed me,” said CEO of the Arc Bob Pruznick. “She was well steeped in our movement.” He describes Guyette as a good storyteller and that was what The Arc needed: someone to get out its story.
Pruznick noted that Guyette has developed many relationships that have benefited The Arc. He described Guyette as “very much a fixture in the community and that is key.” He noted her work with organizations like the Hackettstown Rotary and how when she helps them, they in turn help The Arc.
When asked to reflect on her 25 years, it is clear that Guyette cannot do so without letting The Arc take center stage.
“Kevin never wants to be the center of attention,” said longtime friend and fellow Hackettstown Rotary member, Bob Eberle, one of the owners of the Panther Valley Pharmacy. “The cause is the center of attention. She is one of the most giving people I have ever met.”
Guyette was inspired to get involved in The Arc because of a friend who had a child with Downs Syndrome and seeing what that family experienced.
“I recognized a certain beauty to the strength and resilience in these families and individuals,” she said. “I fell in love with the [human services] field and the organization.”
Guyette shared that The Arc serves people with intellectual disabilities for the life span, from birth to old age, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“It is an organization for individuals and families who often don’t have a voice,” she said.
Her first project when she started at The Arc was running with the idea of a previous employee at radio station WRNJ: a radiothon. That annual radiothon done on WRNJ has “grown into a monster fundraiser,” Guyette said. She noted that it is The Arc’s largest fundraiser with in excess of 1.3 million raised since its inception.
Eberle refers to Guyette as a “fundraising ninja.”
In addition to the monies raised, Guyette noted that the radiothon has also brought public awareness to what The Arc does and has changed how people think of The Arc and the 1,100 people who rely on its services annually. Guyette said that thanks are due to Norman Worth and Larry Tighe of WRNJ for their “continued overwhelming support.”
Worth, WRNJ station president, appreciates what Guyette does as well. “Kevin has a beautiful heart and she’s not afraid to share it. Over the years, I’ve seen her advocate not just for The Arc, but for a variety of other charities, causes and individuals in need. She cares deeply about others. She’s someone you want on your side.”
In reflecting on other milestones during her career, Guyette discussed the importance of the having the Hackettstown Chamber of Commerce change its view of The Arc. Guyette said The Hackettstown Area Chamber of Commerce, which later became the Warren County Regional Chamber of Commerce, was influential in giving The Arc a place in the business community. At first, the Chamber of Commerce didn’t understand it was important to have non-profits on it. However, Guyette noted The Arc is the single largest employer of people who provide services to people with intellectual disabilities in Warren County.
She also noted, “Those with intellectual disabilities need to be accepted. As workers, they are dedicated and have abilities to work in meaningful employment.”
Guyette said her job gives her the autonomy to build and retain relationships with other organizations. One example is NORWESCAP. She found that NORWESCAP and The Arc were a natural fit as many times they shared the same individuals and families. However, it was becoming involved with the Hackettstown Rotary that has had the largest impact on Guyette’s efforts to help in the non-profit area. She noted that it is all about connecting people with the services they need. As shared on its website, the rotary is “neighbors, friends, and community leaders who come together to create positive, lasting change in our communities and around the world.”
“The rotary is my greatest love next to The Arc,” Guyette said. Fellow rotary members include Eberle, Worth, and Hackettstown Mayor Maria DiGiovanni.
DiGiovanni, VP/Business Development Officer of First Hope Bank, noted that Guyette has held the office of president of the Hackettstown Rotary twice and that her passion for it and The Arc is undeniable.
“Kevin is someone who works tirelessly when she believes in something,” said DiGiovanni. “Her devotion to the Arc of Warren is unmatched; she puts her heart and soul into her position there -hence 25 years. When I think of The Arc of Warren, Kevin comes right to mind.”