The business card that Ron Irvine carries for Hope Network identifies him as a “specialist” with the organization’s Micro-Enterprise Program.
But if he were to create a more all-encompassing card for the many hats he wears and interests he has, he might have to carry a bigger card.
Get a bigger billfold.
Maybe even find pants with larger pockets.
Because it might read something like this: “Ron Irvine – teacher, mentor, coach, flugel horn player, believer, blogger, friend, confidant, Quaker, consultant, advisor, dad.”
If he sounds full-fledged and well-rounded, however, he’ll be the first to confess that he’s still a work in progress.
In fact, he’s arguably suffered just as much as some of the consumers with developmental disabilities that he works hard to set up with their own businesses.
Ron and friends (left to right): Dan Kamer,
Rachel DeMaagd, Ron Irvine, Melissa Rozema
and Robin Perrin.
“If I already know, I can no longer learn,” he says, gently trotting out Ron-isms that allow you to understand he is no slave to euphemisms or trite talk.
“His waters run deep,” says Dave Simpson, Hope’s Vice President and Executive Director for Developmental & Community Services.
It’s Ron’s job to guide consumers into roles as business owners, and to date, more than a dozen men and women linked to the Micro-Enterprise Program can say they run their own show – everything from a coffee shop to a packaging enterprise to jewelry for sale.
Another nearly two dozen individuals are in the “feasibility stage,” testing the waters to see if their hobbies have enough potential to soar as bona fide businesses. To clear that hurdle, it must take in enough revenue to generate an income.
On any given day, you might find Ron, 53, immersed in meetings one minute, and in the next, kibitzing in a hallway at his 36th
Street SE office with business owners who weren’t given the opportunity to reach their potential.
One of Ron’s mantras is that “If
Melissa Rozema with the jewelry
that she makes and sells.
you can’t find a job, you’ve gotta create one,” and that’s been true for success stories like Toby Janiga, Rachel DeMaagd and Melissa Rozema, all of whom spend part of each week running a biz.
“They have the same needs I have,” Ron says of all three and all the others in the program. “We all have gifts, and by identifying and using those gifts, that’s how we find meaning in our lives.”
One of Ron’s secrets? “I’ve learned to be quiet – and that’s made a huge difference in my life. I need to be silent while waiting on God. That’s how my own healing started.”
The healing he refers to is an outgrowth of a Job-like series of episodes he experienced in the spring of 2008. In that single season, he became divorced, lost his home to foreclosure, had his former job downsized, lost his health insurance, and fell into clinical depression.
“On top of that,” he says with a laugh, “I also turned 50!”