It was a connection 50 years in the making.

While preparing for Developmental Services of Northwest Kansas’ 50th anniversary celebration last year, staff began collecting information on key individuals who helped establish community-based services for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

The name Homer B. Reed is an important one throughout the organization's history, as evident by the naming of DSNWK’s Hays-based Reed Center in his honor. Reed died shortly after the organization officially was established, and staff lost touch with his surviving family, said Sophia Rose Young, DSNWK’s manager of communications and donations.

“I just felt like something from our history was missing,” she said.

So Young and another staff member set out in efforts to locate any surviving relatives to include them in mailings celebrating the 50th year. What they didn’t know was that — during the same time — Reed’s son and grandson also were trying to get in touch with them via internet searches.

“We were hoping to find each other. They reached out and said they were hoping to do something in honor of their grandfather,” she said. “I could not concentrate for the next day and a half at work. I was just ecstatic all this had happened after the celebration. And they were really trying to hit the date of Feb. 5, 2018, because that day actually did mark 50 years of when we opened our doors.”

The Reed family worked with DSNWK staff to create a memorial fund in Dr. Homer B. Reed Sr.’s name, with a goal of raising $50,000 by the end of the year. An anonymous donor will match up to $20,000 of all donations.

Funds will not be endowed or restricted, as the family wants DSNWK to use the funds to meet areas of greatest need, said DSNWK President Jerry Michaud. All proceeds will benefit programs to assist those with disabilities in 18 northwest Kansas counties.

Reed was a professor of education and psychology at Fort Hays State University, formerly Fort Hays Kansas State College, from 1929 to 1956. He was involved in developing and operating a clinic specializing in assessing children with disabilities.

The Homer B. Reed Adjustment and Training Center was located on campus, and one of the first workshops serving the IDD population in Kansas. That center became DSNWK 50 years ago, and the current Reed Center on 13th Street still bears his name and provides daily College for Living programs.

Several grassroots community efforts were culminating in the late 1960s and early 1970s, all converging to form DSNWK’s current organization and coverage area.

“In those early days, it was pioneering,” Michaud said. “When something new emerges, you don’t particularly think about, ‘In 50 years from now, what will this look like?’ They were breaking the way.”