NORTHEAST MICHIGAN – July 2020, midway through a worldwide pandemic, may not have been the most ideal time to take on a new job, especially that of executive director of ROOC, Inc. For Somer Quinlan, it was an opportunity to continue helping people, as she’s done her entire career.
Prior to joining the staff at ROOC five years ago as program manager, Quinlan worked with the courts as a juvenile probation officer, and was a Friend of the Court as a liaison in abuse and neglect cases.
ROOC (Roscommon, Oscoda, Ogemaw and Crawford) is a local non-profit committed to helping individuals with disabilities receive integrated community services through employment training.
Born in Pontiac, Michigan to Bonnie and Dave O’Dell, she and her family lived in Florida for a time, until her mom decided they should return to Michigan to raise their family. Somer grew up in the area, graduating from Roscommon High School before continuing her education at Central Michigan University where she earned a psychology degree.
Since her graduation from college, Somer has worked in a variety of venues, including a resort and Keiser College, both in the Florida Keys. Working for a consignment store, accountant, title company and even as a former co-owner of a local canoe Livery added to her life experiences.
“They were all stops along the way that have provided me a well rounded background.” Somer said.”
Somer, as you may discern from her name, said the Summer season is her favorite time of year.
Or, as she says, “I think mom did a good job with my name.”
Living near Lake Margarethe in Grayling allows Somer the opportunity to get out with her family on her pontoon or paddle board, as well as biking trails.
Somer said she also loves live Folk and Bluegrass music, attending festivals across the state. She is excited to attend the Farm Fest in Johannesburg. A part of her appreciation for music, she also plans to have a music-related fundraiser at ROOC, similar to Art in the Park.
Somer had hoped that her two sons, Finnley 13, and Fletcher 15, would be interested in following her passion and taking up a musical instrument. While both boys have taken piano and guitar lessons, their focus has been on sports.
Somer said Fletcher is looking forward to playing basketball this season. He spent time this summer at basketball camp and is currently working at the Northbound Food Truck.
Finnley, on the other hand, is enjoying SCUBA diving.
When Somer speaks of her sons, she gets a twinkle in her eye and a special lilt in her voice. Equally so, her passion and dedication for her work with ROOC shines through in her conversation.
During her interview for the position of executive director, interviewer Cherie Johnson asked Somer why she was interested in the position.
“I always wanted to have a job that felt worthwhile and fulfilling at the end of the day.”
“Then this is the job for you,” Johnson answered.
Based in Roscommon County, ROOC serves people with disabilities in Ogemaw, Oscoda and Crawford counties. The goal of ROOC is to help each client reach their full potential.
Clients volunteer in the community at A.R.K. (Association to Rescue Kritters), Habitat for Humanity, various churches, and River House Baby Pantry. They learn skills through employment training, such as in the packaging, selling and delivering Spencer’s Candy.
“To have those individuals attain a sense of self worth, self esteem and the knowledge that they belong, and are part of something (special) is priceless,” Somer said.
Always looking toward the future, Somer hopes to one day offer an in-county employment opportunity such as the After 26 Depot Cafe in Cadillac, which is dedicated to employing adults with developmental disabilities and cognitive impairments in Wexford, Missaukee, and Osceola counties.
One thing she is particularly proud of is how ROOC has earned and maintained its Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) accreditation. CARF is a world wide and recognizes health and human service providers as having met specific standards for quality of service to clients.
Whether in their 20s, 80s and in between, the clients at ROOC hold a special place in her heart.
“It’s a great organization and I’m fortunate to be a part of it.”
For information on ROOC visit rooc.org.