Unity House’s longest-serving employee retires

This week, after more than 37 years of direct support to people with disabilities, Tim Laird is retiring as Unity House’s longest-serving employee.

Residence Counselor Tim Laird holds a plaque recognizing his 37 years of service to Unity House, starting in 1986.

“I remember so much of Unity House’s past,” Tim told CEO Liz Smith on Monday, his last day. “It’s like it was yesterday.”

Liz said that Tim has been part of “a lifetime” of change at Unity House, which had been founded just nine years before his first day on the job.

“You’ve seen our programs and services evolve so that they are much more community-based,” Liz told Tim. “So with you leaving, we’re losing a lot of that historical perspective.”

One of the many employees Tim trained over the years was Darlene Podolak, who now serves as Unity House’s Chief Operating Officer. For much of Tim’s tenure, he also served as a leader of the union that represents direct support professionals. He was a strong advocate for workers, Darlene said.

“He has been a good partner in helping make Unity House a better place for employees, and that has allowed us to provide better support” to people with disabilities, Darlene said.

Tim said he plans to take a long vacation, including a visit to Niagara Falls. Eventually, he said, he’d like to get another job, but not in the field of human services.

“It’s time to turn that page on my life, and it’s OK,” he told a group of friends at his going away party. “It’s liberating.”

 He said he will always carry good memories of Unity House with him.

“I’m going to miss you,” Tim told Liz after they hugged goodbye. “I wish you all the best.”