Enquirer Herald

York Place really is a good place

Someone was telling me recently that York Place Episcopal Church Home for Children was a great place and what wonderful things I had done for children in my tenure there. I just smiled and said "thank you."

That was dishonest of me. York Place is all the good things they mentioned, but it became that because of the competent and caring staff that kept things rolling. You have to be in a children's home or a treatment center to really know how many problems come up every day and really every hour. These staff were always those who were there on the spot and ready to deal with them.

I will take credit for one important thing. I was able to find and surround myself with some very good people.

Gene Knight, for 30 years, was the solid rock all children knew they could depend on. He was tough but he was fair and they recognized this almost immediately.

Names also included Peggy Robinson, Sally Hart, Jill Sipe, Dot Pettus, Robert and Mildred Hawkins, Jack Spradlin, Mary Jane Love Dulin, Helen Thomasson, Ann Ramere and others for whom I was daily grateful.

Then there were the real heroes of the daily lives -- the cottage directors and assistants who were on the front line and who are just too numerous to list. They were filled by everyone from social workers to college students serving apprenticeships and part time employment. Many students carried away experiences with troubled children which they will treasure as they move into families of their own.

There was one spot I could not fill with competent staff. That was those middle of the night calls when a child ran away or got in some other kind of trouble and was picked up by the police. At one point there were plenty of others who could deal with it but the local police and population as a whole just automatically said "Call Sandy Howie."

This was a reflection of my first year when I WAS the only one. When I came in 1957 there were 72 children, a farm manager, six houseparents plus a relief, a secretary and me. Child Welfare League said that, at age 29, I was probably the youngest child care executive in the United States. I know now that stamina of youth was a good thing.

I have been retired now over 15 years and that same high degree of personnel has carried forth until today. John Shiflet is now the President and Church Home could not be in more capable hands.

-- H. Sanford Howie Jr. is executive director emeritus for the Episcopal Church Home for Children