After completing the “best five years “ of his working life, Chuck Troutman will retire as CEO of Murphy Harpst Children’s Center in the coming year.
Troutman will officially step down from his role at Murphy-Harpst Children’s Center in February 2016, he said in an interview last week.
He said working at Murphy-Harpst has been a blessed last stop before retirement.
“Talk about a crowning experience of my career. The last five years I have been a part of a team that has made an extraordinary difference in the lives of the children we serve. Their faces and names will remain with me for the rest of my life.”
Troutman has worked in nonprofits, primarily in fundraising and nonprofit management for 40 years.
He worked with the American Heart Association for 30 years in roles that included national director of CPR training, executive director of two state affiliates and most recently, as deputy director for the five-state Heart Association Southeastern affiliate.
He worked three years for a greater Atlanta hospital system
When he interviewed for the job at Harpst Home, his background really wasn’t a “perfect fit,” Troutman said.
“I was absolutely not the best trained. I had no experience in behavioral health care but I think the search committee saw something that was special about the fit. They were looking for solid nonprofit management experience and someone who could lead a larger nonprofit.“
In the past 5 years, the Murphy Harpst development team has finished a multi-million dollar capital campaign to build a gymnasium and two new dormitories, renovated two existing dormitories and renovated the agency’s on-campus school. Troutman credits these financial successes to thousands of donors who provide gifts to Murphy Harpst.
With the opening of the new dormitory in November 2015 every one of the 57 children on campus will have their own private room and most will have private baths.
“If I had known at the beginning what I know now, the dormitories would have been the priority,” Troutman said.
“These kids need a place to decompress, and they really deserve a private room setting. Our population is a challenging one. If you can imagine living in a cottage with 12 to 15 other people, all of whom can be behaviorally challenging, that’s a lot of people. We previously had only seven private rooms and we are turning that into 57.”
Five years into the job, Troutman feels like his talents have, after all, been a good fit with what the home needed. “I’ve had a wonderful team of people who knew the business to work with along the way,” he said, including headmaster Marvin Williams, former superintendent of Polk School District, residential director Karen Gibson, and Niesha Turner who runs the counseling side.
As VP for Development, Emily Saltino has raised millions of dollars to keep Murphy Harpst a viable organization for many years.
“I can’t tell you how valuable our direct care staff team is here. They work day in and day out; they have the toughest job in the agency. The 24/7 care of these young people is a daunting task. But the positive results in the lives of the children is well worth the effort.”
With 140 employees, Murphy Harpst is one of the largest employers in the county. The agency celebrated its 100th birthday in 2014.
“Since 1984 our niche has been to provide a home and therapeutic services to heal the young people who have had multiple failures in the traditional foster care system of care. Murphy Harpst believes that every child has intrinsic value. We’re trying to help our children to experience all those things we wish for our own families,” Troutman said.
Murphy-Harpst Children’s Center is a therapeutic residential treatment center. The children, mostly between ages 12 and 21, are wards of the state and are referred to the agency by the Department of Family and Children Services or the Department of Juvenile Justice.
The agency serves over 300 children a year: 57 children live on the campus, another 30 children receive counseling as outpatients, and the agency provides specialized foster care to another 40 children in homes of foster parents in Northwest Georgia. Troutman noted that there is a great need for foster parents in Northwest Georgia. He encouraged people interested in becoming a foster parent to contact Murphy Harpst.
Troutman, 61, says he is happy with the growth of the agency, but he is surprised at the level of personal growth he has experienced there.
Previously, he says, he knew his work translated into positive results for communities and individuals, but the feedback came in the form of statistics — the number of new patients served, scientific achievements and lives saved from heart disease, stroke and cancer.
“Most of my work was remote and while it’s great to raise money for research you don’t know the people you are helping,” he said.
Here, “the work that we’re doing is in your face every day. We’ve got a young lady discharging today that I can recount for you some real hurdles and turmoil she’s been through. I can remember visiting with that young lady in the emergency room, I can remember those very precious moments as we were telling her ‘you do make a difference. We do care.’ ”
Troutman added, “We have a 70 percent success rate returning children to a lower level of care where they had previously failed.”
Troutman and his wife, Angie, grew up in the Carolinas, he in Concord, N.C. — the NASCAR capital of the world, he notes — and Angie in Columbia, S.C. Angie is a full-time volunteer at the home and is “twice the asset I am,” Troutman says.
They are retiring in Mexico to live in a house they built there over the last few years. Once settled, Troutman says he expects to snorkel, sail, and learn to fish. He will also be looking for an opportunity to do some volunteer work with a local nonprofit.