Fresh out of college, Bud Clark's first employer taught him the importance of giving back – a lesson that stayed with him throughout his career. Even in retirement, Clark still finds a way to give back. “My first employer volunteered in a lot of organizations. That was a main thrust of his life – service to the community. Working for him made me understand the need to give back to the community,” Clark said.
Growing up in Felton, Clark has roots in southern Delaware. He graduated from University of Delaware with a bachelor's degree in psychology and began a career in insurance in 1969 at the Scarborough Agency in Wilmington. After seven years as an insurance agent, he moved back south to work for L&W Insurance in Georgetown. By 1985, he was owner of Insurance Unlimited in Millsboro, which later merged with Rehoboth Beach's Williams Insurance in 1993.
“I stayed there until I retired, Dec. 31, 2015,” he said.
Although retired from the workforce, Clark kept his ties with Georgetown's CHEER center, a relationship he began after moving to Georgetown in 1976. New to the area, Clark said, he knew he wanted to join a group that gives back to the community, and he joined the Georgetown, Millsboro Rotary Club – a group whose motto is service above self.
“At the same time, someone asked me to join the CHEER board,” he said. “It sounded interesting, and I said, 'Sure, I'll go ahead and do it.'”
It's a relationship that has lasted more than four decades. Over the years, Clark has served as president, vice president and building campaign chairman. His awards include Delaware Governor's Volunteer of the Year Award, CHEER Hall of Fame Award, President's Lifetime Service Award and CHEER's Exemplary Years of Service Award.
Clark is nonplussed and humble as he shares his experiences. He said he is proud of the growth of the organization over the years. “When it started out, it was just a meal program and a home-health program,” he said. “But we moved into a transportation program and convinced the state that we could do it more efficiently. As a result, we have buses all over the county.”
More change came when the group built its own activity and community centers in Georgetown, Long Neck, Lewes, Milton, Ocean View and Greenwood.
While Clark hesitates to take credit for his volunteer work, others weren't so shy during a December recognition luncheon honoring Clark for 42 years of service and his official retirement from CHEER's board of directors. “Without Bud, this organization wouldn't be what it is today,” said Ken Bock, chief executive officer for CHEER.
Arlene Littleton, former executive director of CHEER, said she remembers working with Clark to bring funding to Sussex County senior citizens. “We were constantly having to explain the difference between Sussex County and New Castle County,” she said. “Bud was always dedicated in helping the senior citizens of Sussex County.”
Bishop Grace R. Batten, president of the CHEER Board of Directors, said Clark's focus has helped the center get things done. “He has been a source of inspiration to all of us,” she said. “You need someone to keep you on target. He kept us inspired and motivated.”
Although retired from the board, Clark said he plans to stay involved with the CHEER center. “It's not that I really wanted to leave the board – it's time for younger blood and new ideas. I'm 72 years old and it's time,” he said with a chuckle. Clark shares a home in Milton with his wife, Connie, and the two have a blended family of five sons and 10 grandchildren. He still works part-time in insurance, running Delaware Grange Mutual.
In between rounds of golf and trips to Florida to see his father, he said, he plans to help the center establish a village setting at its Sand Hill Road location.
“Being involved with all these construction projects has been fun and interesting,” he said. “There's still a lot to do. Just watching the organization grow and being a part of helping it do that has been the biggest thing for me.”