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August 2005

James M. Boles, Ed.D.
People Inc.'s Pace-Setting Pioneer

by Joseph H. RADDER

Dr. James M. Boles, President and CEO of People Inc., is indeed a pioneer in human services. For example, he established one of the first group homes in Western New York, providing a shared residence for developmentally disabled people. People Inc. now operates 90 such homes throughout the area, serving 500 to 600 people. Family respite centers, a Young Adult Life Transitions Program, Children's services and Senior services, including housing for low income seniors, are also services People Inc. provides to the community.

"Our commitment remains to the highest quality in our existing programs that serve thousands of people, many around the clock," Dr. Boles said. "We'll be creating more supportive homes for individuals with developmental disabilities, the doors opened to a new Family Respite Center, we'll be collaborating with additional colleges to expand our Young Adult Life Transitions program, and our children's services will expand as we carry on our efforts to establish a charter school. Our senior services will continue to meet even more of the need of the growing elderly population, including two new affordable apartment complexes in Orchard Park and Lackawanna with further development started in West Seneca, Clarence and Cheektowaga. We're working our way up to an even dozen of these," he continued.

People Inc. serves people of all ages, from children to aging seniors thanks to funding by contributions from the People Inc. board, staff, the State of New York, families, corporations, foundations and many friends in the community. Many of the agency's programs are funded through contracts with local, state and federal governments. Truly People Inc. is a classic example of people helping people.

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Mom and Dad - Margaret and James A. Boles, 1965. Jim Boles - 1 year old as a toddler.
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Jim Boles - 9 years old. Father and son relaxing.

Dr. Boles, has been with People Inc. for twenty-four years. He came here from Massachusetts where he was executive director of the Hampshire Association for Mental Health in Northampton, Mass. From 1997 through 2000 he was also a part-time Adjunct Professor at the State University of New York at Buffalo. He began his career in human services in 1972, administering two community residences serving mentally ill adults in Westminster, California. Prior to taking the position in Massachusetts he was an instructor at Niagara Community College and a marriage, family and child counselor in Niagara Falls. Simultaneously he was a researcher, initiating a research project that analyzed a community system serving mentally ill, developmentally disabled and alcoholic clients. This work became the basis for his doctoral dissertation at Columbia University, where he received his degree in 1978 as doctor of education in family and community relations.

He also received a masters degree in the same field at Columbia in 1975 and a master's degree in clinical psychology at Goddard College in 1974. His college education began at Brockport State College, where he received a BS degree in English education in 1972. Boles served in the U.S. Army from 1966 to 1968.    

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Jim and Paige Boles, 1974. All dressed up: Jim and Paige.
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Celebrating the holidays: daughter Shawna, Paige, Jim and son Christopher.

When Dr. Boles moved from Massachusetts to Buffalo he was really coming back home. You see, he was born in Lockport, N.Y. in 1947. His father, James A. Boles, was an accountant. "My father was always very optimistic, even when it wasn't justified,"Dr. Boles remembered with a smile. His mother, Margaret Dugan Boles, was a nurse. "She was really a hard-worker," he said. "She was always working."

He has a brother, Timothy, a retired maintenance supervisor, who lives in Kenmore. His sister, Mary, is a lawyer and a hearing judge for the State of New York and lives in Buffalo. His brother, Dan is a real estate developer in Las Vegas. His brother, David, is a social worker in Massachusetts. His sister Colleen is a student and lives in Buffalo. His sister Rebecca also lives in Buffalo and is in school.

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Jim Boles admiring a Vincent motorcycle at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Jim Boles at Classic Auto Museum in Hershey, Pennsylvania.

Dr. Boles and Paige Conrad were married in 1974 in Newfane, New York, at St. Bridget's Roman Catholic Church. Mrs. Boles is a kindergarten teacher. The Boles have two adult children, Christopher, age 29, who is a graduate student at UB majoring in marketing and media and Shawna, age 26, a social worker who is beginning a doctorate program in psychology.

Dr. Boles has received many awards and honors over the years. A recent honor, of which he is very proud, is the Adrian Levy Award, received in September last year from the New York State Rehabilitation Association. The citation accompanying this award states, in part, "People Inc. has matured under his leadership, becoming the area's largest not-for-profit human service agency, touching over 10,000 lives annually with over 2,000 staff. He established a culture which continues today to share information and technical expertise with other providers, to take risks and experiment with new techniques and approaches, to contribute to the larger field and the mutual goals of the provider community rather than just those that would directly benefit his own organization."

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People Inc.'s Museum of disABILITY History is an innovative program that Jim Boles initiated. Celebrating the 10th anniversary of People Inc.'s Elmwood Health Center. L-R: Vice President Anna Korus, Jim Boles, EHC Director Christina Sage and
Board member Patrick F. Reilly.
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Dr. James Boles, Chairman of ECDDPC 1980’s with Senator Anthony Masiello, Assemblyman Richard Keane and Erie County Legislator Thomas Mazur. Opening a new People Inc. group home. L-R: Board member Patrick F. Reilly, Jim Boles, a program participant and Tom Siczewicz.
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People Inc. Foundation Board Chairperson Ralph Vanner, Sr. and Jim Boles thank the crowd at the agency's annual golf tournament in 2004 with proceeds benefiting the Family Respite Center Capital Campaign.

He is on several boards of directors including the KeyBank Western New York Advisory Board, the Rehabilitation Research and Training Institute and the New York State Association of Rehabilitation Facilities. He was president of the latter organization from 1993-1995.

Future plans? Dr. Boles plans on working at least ten more years before he starts thinking about retirement.

The growth of People Inc. and Dr. Boles' leadership has been legendary. "When I came here this agency had a staff of 200 and a budget of $2 million. Today we have 2,200 staff and the budget is over $70 million. I have a very good board of directors and a lot of competent staff. The agency's service area covers the eight counties of Western New York. What may surprise some people is the fact that People Inc. has more beds than Buffalo General Hospital. Dr. Boles spoke of People Inc.'s unique management challenge. Unlike a large hospital, where almost all of the employees work under one roof and one management, People Inc.'s 2,200 employees are spread out over more than 100 sites.        
And, of course, it's a 24/7 operation. "We never close," Dr. Boles said. "We're like one of those 24 hour diners that lost the key to the front door because they never use it."

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Celebrating KeyBank's donation to open an Employee Training Computer Lab. Assemblymember Crystal Peoples (left) and Assemblymember Sam Hoyt (center) joined People Inc. COO Rhonda Frederick and President and CEO James M. Boles, Ed.D. to present the check to Seniors Unlimited staff and program participants.
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Congressman Brian Higgins and Jim Boles welcome two tenants to their new HUD Senior housing complex at Seneca-Cazenovia Square in South Buffalo. New York Senator George Maziarz, People Inc. Board Chairperson, Georgiana Jungels and Jim Boles join together at a ribbon cutting for the Seniors Unlimited program.
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Our friends from the cover:
Seated L-R: Jill Turchiarelli, Jim Boles, Donna Fogarty, Alexandria Harbin (stroller), Rose Causley and Julie Kowalewski.
Standing L-R: Gay Meyers, Javier Ruiz, Ruth Muszynski, Verna Staples, Jeffrey Vance and Barbara Rance.

A relatively new project that Dr. Boles is very excited about is People Inc.'s Museum of disABILITY History. "I was doing some research work," he said, "and I couldn't find anything on the history of disabilities. There was second-hand information in text-books, but, I said to myself, there must be a disabilities museum somewhere. I'll go and find it. But there wasn't one in the United States, not even in the world. So, about six years ago we started one with a charter from New York State." The Museum is now located in the building next door to People Inc.'s headquarters on North Forest Road in Williamsville. "But I'm working with the Town of Amherst to move our Museum into the old Mennonite school house on Main Street at North Forest, currently being used only for storage."

The Museum collection includes historic postcards and reports from asylums and state schools, photos and lithographs of individuals with developmental disabilities, adaptive equipment as it evolved, movies with disability themes and books dealing with the subject of disabilities. There is also a traveling exhibit available to institutions, schools, libraries, businesses and hospitals or for special events.

This is a perfect example of James Boles' innovative spirit. He's purposeful, he's a pace-setter and he's a pioneer in the truest sense of the word. People Inc. is fortunate to have such a creative person at its helm. And Buffalo/Niagara is indeed fortunate to have People Inc.

Joseph H. Radder is a freelance writer.

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