Being in the presence of Lloyd Lewis at our Hillstone lunch recently was enlightening. Lloyd with his magnetic personality is a “mission-driven” man of many accomplishments. Lewis who is the CEO of the Arc Retail Thrift Stores of Colorado, an almost 50 year old nonprofit, has made numerous unparalleled contributions by significantly growing the organization. The growth has been consistent since he started with Arc in 2005 (originally as their CFO), and Lewis has doubled Arc’s revenues and created jobs for a large number of disabled people and developed them into proud, extraordinary employees.
After some years in the corporate world, Lloyd’s life changed with the birth of his son, Kennedy, in 2003 who was diagnosed with Down syndrome. Lewis said he fell in love with Kennedy immediately, and he soon realized how vital it was to help create more awareness and advocacy for people with disabilities. Lloyd Lewis is a vigorous spokesperson for the disabled and says that Kennedy has been a blessing to his entire family. Shortly after Kennedy’s birth, Lloyd began his mission with Arc.
Colleagues who have worked with Lloyd described him as: “an incredible mentor,” “responsible for turning a struggling Arc into a financially successful organization,” “100% genuine” - to “feel fortunate to have worked and learned from him.”
With his positive perspective on just about everything, Lloyd and his wife, Claire, are happily married newlyweds and just might be one of the busiest couples in town with all their community involvement. Lloyd has changed the landscape of Arc’s entire organization and still finds time to support many other nonprofits throughout Denver and the U.S.
Lloyd Lewis is high-spirited, articulate… a visionary, and dedicated to his family - and his Arc family. Here’s our interview that will tell you about the boards he serves on, his greatest accomplishments, and about his new family tradition.
Lloyd, I see you out at many nonprofit events. How do you decide which ones you will attend? There are so many great non profits, and so many great causes (disabilities, cancer, homelessness, substance abuse, etc.). Given how well Arc has done, and how blessed I am, my wife and I try to attend as many as we can, and support as many as we can.
Tell us about the different boards you serve on? I am privileged to chair three disabilities boards – the Colorado Cross Disability Coalition, one of the premier disability advocacy organizations in Colorado which also has a litigation arm to enforce compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act; the Atlantis Community Foundation which creates housing for people with disabilities (we will submit an application for a 65 unit, $17 million project in the Baker neighborhood in June); and also serve as a gubernatorial appointee and chair of state commission on disability benefits.
Additionally, I am past chair of the Rocky Mountain Down Syndrome Assocation, as well as currently on the board of the Anti-Defamation League. More recently, have been elected to the west coast board of American Friends of Shalva, a Jerusalem based organization serving people with disabilities in Israel. Shalva has just raised $50 million for a new 200,000 sq.ft. community center for people with disabilities, perhaps the largest of its kind in the world. And the west coast board has many interesting board members, including a very popular Hollywood director.
What do you consider your greatest accomplishment other than your family? The creation of an employment program at Arc for people with disabilities. When I started with Arc in 2005, there were 10 such employees – today we have 265 employees with disabilities. I also created a social program for people with disabilities – Arc Ambassadors, as well as an academic program for these employees – Arc University.
What is the most important contribution you made to arc over the last 10 years? We have been able to dramatically grow Arc over the last 10 years, more than doubling revenue. And we have grown dramatically the funding we provide to 13 Arc advocacy chapters across the front range and the western slope - $65 million over the last 10 years, and very likely $100 million or more over the next 10 years.
When did you know for sure you would dedicate your life to people with special needs?
Immediately upon the birth of my son Kennedy in 2003, who has Down syndrome.
How hands on are you with the planning of arc events? For our annual galas, we have great gala committees, and I try to let them do most of the planning, including themes for our events. I very much appreciate those who generously volunteer their time and talents to Arc, and I try to let them have fun and be creative.
I ask all married people this: “What is the secret to wedded bliss?” Picking the right partner! My wife Claire is a beautiful person, both inside and out, and I learn from her every day and try to appreciate her everyday. She is an amazing person.
What qualities do you look for in a friend? Honesty. Compassion. Caring. Someone interested in making a difference.
Aside from your family, what is your most treasured possession? A family heirloom?
I inherited my grandfather’s desk that he used as a plant manager for a Mobil Oil plant refinery in Tacoma, Washington. My grandfather was my hero, and his desk sits prominently in my office at Arc.
With all the responsibility you have, how do you handle the stress that might come with it? What keeps you grounded and focused? What keeps me grounded is my wife and family. And my focus on my life mission of creating a better life for my son with Down syndrome, and for others with disabilities across Colorado and the country.
Can you tell us about a cherished family tradition? Our new family tradition is to celebrate two great holiday traditions – Hanukkah, and Christmas. My sons and I are enjoying learning about the great traditions of the Jewish faith, and sharing our Christmas traditions with my wife and her sons.
With your busy schedule and many commitments, do you have time to do any traveling or participate in sports or leisure activities? With four kids at home, and my wife’s teaching career and my career, it can be difficult to get away. Over the last couple of years we’ve taken some fun trips – memorable trips to New Orleans and Orlando as examples, and a trip coming this March to Arizona to visit my mother.
If you have time for books, tv, or movies – what are your favorites? Book: Recent - The Churchill Factor Movie: Bridge of Spies TV Show: House of Cards
You mentioned you really admire three historical figures: Sir Winston Churchill, Theodore Roosevelt & Franklin D. Roosevelt. Give me your favorite quote from each? Winston: "History will be kind to me for I intend to write it." Teddy: "Believe you can and you're halfway there." FDR: "The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide for those who have too little."
What’s on the horizon for you? Where do you see yourself 10 years from now? Future goals? I want to generate, through Arc and my other involvements, $150 million or more for charitable purposes, primarily Arc advocacy programs.
How do you want people to remember Lloyd Lewis? As someone who loved his wife and family, and tried to create a better world for people with disabilities.