At Home in Central Illinois had the extreme pleasure to talk with Janice McAteer, the Director of Development at Developmental Services Center, which is located at 1304 W. Bradley Ave. in Champaign. She cherishes her career.

“Both my sister and daughter have disabilities,” she said.

This has further reinforced her commitment to those that DSC serves in the community.

With over 200 people at DSC, McAteer said that the center is a community in and of itself. DSC is local and independent, although they do get state and other funding to help them operate.

“Most of the time, we fly under the radar. When someone needs us, we want to be there,” she said.

And while she said that serving those with disabilities can be tough, the approach that DSC uses works well.

“We focus on the positives and the joys, especially our people in direct service to those we serve. We may not ever get rich in what we do, however, we walk away enriched every day,” McAteer said from her lovely Champaign home, holding her little Bichon Frise, Lacey.

McAteer has been with DSC for 13 years. She just completed a master degree in non-profit administration from North Park University of Chicago.

Walk that walk

McAteer has traveled an interesting road to get her to where she is today. She graduated from McKendree University, which is located in Lebanon, IL-close to St. Louis- with a bachelor degree in early childhood education. She taught for a couple of years, too. She’s even been in sales. And she worked in her own family’s lighting business for many years, which shows in her own home, with its own impeccably dramatic lighting.

“I moved to Central Illinois, because I followed my first husband,” she said.

When their marriage ended, McAteer stayed so her children, Taylor, now 23 years of age and Connor, who is currently 21, could be near their father.

She met her husband, Mike Smith, at a support group for divorced people.

“I looked forward to every Sunday, which is when our group met. The people in that group were so special to me,” she said.

Over time, she and Mike started a relationship. They make a great pair, because they are both focused on family.

“Family is everything. Mike said he fell in love with me, because of the mother that I am,” she said.

Blending their families has been wonderful for them, too. She refers to her stepsons, Todd and Ben, as “bonus boys.” They reside in Portland, OR. However, even with that distance, McAteer managed to introduce Todd to his wife, Holly. Holly was part of the Big Brothers Big Sisters of America program, and McAteer became Holly’s Big Sister.

“I’ve known her since third grade. I sat them up online. Here she was in St. Louis and he was in Portland,” she said.

She said their family works.

“In a blended marriage you hope you will step in front of a bus for each other’s kids, and we are definitely there,” she said.

McAteer relishes her granddaughters: three-year-old Josephine, and Hazel, who is a mere four months old.

Niceness counts

McAteer is in a good place in her life. She turns 50 next year and she’s happy about it. What advice does she have for people-especially women- in today’s complicated world?

“I like who I am. I like my own company. Women take care of everyone. We need to do things for ourselves and take care of ourselves. Be happy, and find what makes you be you,” she said while petting Lacey.

Just be nice to others, too, she said. Kindness is such an integral part of who she is that she readily admits that she walks that walk, and she talks that talk.

“It’s so easy to be nice,” she said.