E. Dennis Horton retired on May 31 after forty-one years of service to Mountain Empire Older Citizens (MEOC), the area agency on aging for Lee, Scott and Wise Counties and the City of Norton. Dennis began his career at MEOC in 1978 and served in many roles including Deputy Director. Most recently he served as Executive Director of the Junction Center for Independent Living and as Special Projects Coordinator for MEOC.
When asked what he felt to be his greatest accomplishment with MEOC, Dennis stated “I feel fortunate to have been a part of the development of human services for persons in need across the Commonwealth. When I started working in human services, there was not much available to help people who found themselves in need. After joining Mountain Empire Older Citizens, Inc., I watched this agency grow from a few folks in a house with six rooms to the agency we have today. I’ve witnessed the growth of our impact in those communities we were charged to serve and to have a positive impact in them; and I’ve seen the number of people we are able to help grow by leaps and bounds. Many of the programs existing in Virginia today were invented at MEOC and pilot programs developed. My greatest hope is that the lives of the people of our communities are better today than they were yesterday because of the efforts of MEOC. I’m proud to have played a small role and to have been associated with such a dedicated, mission-driven group of people.”
Coworkers know Dennis’ roles here have been anything but small. Some highlights from Dennis’ career include being appointed by the Governor of Virginia to serve on the Virginia Specialized Transportation Council, the Disability Commission, the Developmental Disabilities Commission, and serving as Virginia State Delegate at the Virginia White House Conference on Persons with Disabilities and as a member of the Virginia Taskforce on Employment of the Disabled.
Dennis helped organize the Community Transportation Association of Virginia and then became its first President. He played a crucial role in bringing preschool programs for children with disabilities to southwest Virginia through his work with the Regional Child Development Center and was Chair of the LENOWISCO Disability Services Board.
Dennis designed and implemented MEOC’s automated accounting and client tracking system and served as a consultant to other area agencies with their systems and trained them in their implementation efforts. Dennis directed the construction and expansion of MEOC’s buildings and was instrumental in growing MEOC services.
A retirement party in his honor was given by MEOC staff where many folks gathered and reminisced about their favorite memories involving Dennis. Longtime coworkers often describe Dennis as easy to talk to, a great friend and a hard worker. “It is with mixed emotions that we say farewell to Dennis,” said Michael Wampler, Executive Director of MEOC. “We share his excitement about this new phase of his life but we will miss his passion and commitment to aging and disability services.”
In his retirement, Dennis plans to spend as much time with his grandchildren as possible and to spend more time doing his favorite hobby, woodworking. He intimated that perhaps there could be a new venture or two. Dennis continues to dedicate time to helping others and to serving his church and his community.