Bill Baker Jr. was an original member of the board of directors when the Ada Area Council on Alcoholism (now known as the Addiction & Behavioral Health Center) was established in May of 1977. He and a group of other local business owners thought it very necessary for there to be an agency whose primary purpose was to provide education to community members regarding alcohol abuse at that time.
He remained an active lifetime member of that very board and had attended a meeting in December 2018 before his passing in January. For more than 41 years, Mr. Baker attended meetings monthly to ensure that funding continued for the hundreds of alcoholics and addicts that were and are in need of services in our community. He never wanted credit but often made donations to organizations that sponsored events for young people in the area to be provided with education for alcohol and drug addiction. He also sponsored other local events, including Step Out of the Darkness and the Pontotoc County Drug Free Coalition.
Over the 41-year span that he was on the board of directors, he saw numerous location changes, and several name changes, changes in directors, and ABHC went from providing education to providing a large array of services for the treatment of addiction, but Mr. Baker stood firm to his own belief that “One alcoholic/addict helping another was a very powerful instrument in the right hands.” He held fast to policies and guidelines put into place to make sure that the mission of ABHC always included the provision of that very thing. During the later years, he had a hard time hearing a lot of what was going on in the meetings, but he never hesitated to ask pertinent questions and shared his opinions about the topic of treatment and recovery. He also often shared his own personal recovery story with groups at our agency.
Mr. Baker told me when I became the executive director of ABHC that all I had to do was “put one foot in front of the other, pray, and let God take care of the rest.” I use those words to inspire me on a regular basis. He had a very quiet way of seeing the best in others and helped others to see the best in themselves. He was truly one of the best men that I have ever had the privilege to work for and alongside. He was so much more than a board of directors member. He was a role model, a mentor and a friend to many. At the end of each meeting, as he left the building, he would lean over and whisper to me, “This place is helping a lot of people, and that’s what’s important. Don’t ever let anyone tell you different.”
I just wanted the community to know how much he will truly be missed by our organization, the board of directors, the staff and the clientele of ABHC.