Nonprofit director to retire: Hickman has worked for BArc for 39 years

Published 8:13 pm Sunday, September 19, 2021

The Beauregard Arc is actively searching for a new executive director to take charge over the future of the nonprofit organization, as longtime director Jackie Hickman recently announced his intention to retire at the end of this year.

The decision was a tough one, Hickman acknowledged, and one that took him some time to come to terms with, but he said it was a decision he ultimately felt ready to make this year.

“I kind of had this realization; you know, it seems like throughout society there is the common thought that the younger generation is always following close behind, but the older generation doesn’t pay them much mind until all of a sudden they realize it’s time for the younger generation to move up and take charge. That’s what happened with me. I finally realized that maybe it is time to let someone new come in and take the reins,” Hickman said.

“I would have loved to have worked until I was 70, but I have a lot of peace about my decision. I know it’s time.”

Many would say Hickman has earned his retirement, having dedicated much of his adult life to the Beauregard Arc. Hickman has worked for the nonprofit for 39 years, with the past 23 of those years as executive director. To many in the community, his name has become synonymous with BArc.

BArc board president James Perkins said that while the board may hire a new director, it will never be able to find another Jackie Hickman.

“Jackie has been the glue that has kept everything together for decades. The Beauregard Arc and this community owe Jackie more than we would ever be able to repay him in this lifetime. I am so blessed to know him. We wish him and his family the best in his next chapter of life and thank him for everything he has given to this organization,” Perkins said.

Hickman took over the role in January of 1998 when the previous executive director, Joy Christy, stepped down from the position. At that time, the organization was operating out of a small building on Shirley Street, and Hickman said he initially set his sights on expanding the foundation that Christy and the BArc board had started to build.

That primarily meant finding a more suitable location for the program to operate out of; a larger area that would allow for the expansion of programs offered to the citizens the BArc served. In 2011, his goals were realized by the local community when DeRidder resident Velmer Smith and her family approached Hickman and offered to donate their property on Mahlon Street. That property would become the new main location for the nonprofit, and a warehouse behind the building would serve as the new center of operations for its recycling program.

“It was one of those moments where you are shocked and surprised all at the same time. It was perfect for us and exactly what we needed, and that has really been the core of Beauregard Arc; the community has always been the driving force behind what we are able to accomplish,” Hickman said.

Indeed, Beauregard Arc was created in the early 1960s out of the desire from local families to have more opportunities for their sons and daughters with developmental disabilities. They “wanted something better,” as Hickman put it, and so they made a program that allowed their family members to become a productive member of the community while remaining in a safe and supervised environment.

Today, the Beauregard Arc is a state-licensed day program that provides work, work training and life skills training for developmentally disabled adults that allows them to be productive and active citizens in the community. In addition to providing adult day care services, the organization holds a contract with several organizations and with the city of DeRidder for its residents to provide lawncare services as well as recycling services.

Over the years and under Hickman’s leadership, BArc has grown to levels no one could have expected.

By the beginning of 2020, a record 63 residents were participating in the organization’s programs and the contracts signed through the organization with community members and various local businesses was growing every day.

Hickman was also able to see other aspirations come to fruition. The organization experienced incredible success with its BArc Thrift Store that was opened next door in another building donated by the Smith family in 2013, and in 2020 it opened its new BArc sewing center where BArc citizens offer denim based items for sale, as well as offer other embroidery services.

The thrift store operates solely on donated items from the community and has experienced such incredible success that is has been able to bring in enough funds to help benefit other programs within BArc.

“As a nonprofit organization in a small rural area, I can’t stress how incredible that is,” Hickman said.

Hickman has taken little credit for the accomplishments and instead credits the organization’s success to the ongoing support from the community.

“Everything that we have been able to accomplish is because of the amazing dedication this community has shown us and our citizens, and I can’t say that strongly enough. From the United Way to the DeRidder Women’s League, they have continuously supported us through their fundraisers and donations, and we are incredibly thankful for that,” he said.

Sadly, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought many of BArc’s programs to a halt over the past year. Social distancing and mask protocols are still enforced due to the serious health concerns of the residents in the organization’s care, and at one point the office was shut down completely.

Still, Hickman’s perseverance and his dedication to the BArc families never faltered. By this summer, 19 residents had returned to BArc, and Hickman said he hopes that number will continue to grow.

It may be a lot to hand over to someone new, but Hickman said he has the utmost faith in the BArc board members that they will find the appropriate person to oversee the organization’s future.

“I have complete confidence in the board that they will find the right person. This job requires a special kind of person, but I know that they are going to find someone with a kind heart and a love for helping people with developmental disabilities improve the quality of their lives.”

The Board of Directors is now accepting resumes to consider for Hickman’s replacement. Perkins said the perfect candidate would possess a bachelor’s degree, plus a minimum four years of verifiable experience working in a field providing services to the elderly or people with developmental disabilities.

Resumes will be accepted through Oct. 5, and may be emailed to the Board of Directors at BArcEDcom@gmail.com or mailed to 221 Mahlon St., DeRidder, LA 70634.