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Faith, Hope & Charity OKs merger

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Faith Hope & Charity, the agency serving intellectually-challenged children in Storm Lake for 50 years, will become a division of Rock Valley-based Hope Haven Inc. The merger is expected to take effect February 1.

FHC leaders have been exploring the possibilities for change for about two years, with the board deciding last week to sign an agreement with Hope Haven, which has also been serving northwest Iowans for over half a century.

“It came down to about three choices - try to stand alone as long as we could, try to develop new services and get bigger, or partner with another agency,” explained Larry Hecht, president of the FHC board.

They spoke with four larger organizations, and felt Hope Haven offered the best arrangement. “Their mission and culture are close to ours,” Hecht said.

“It was a big decision, a hard decision. This was not a fast decision - it was well-thought out by the board,” agrees Cindy Wiemold, CEO of FHC.

Under the deal, Faith, Hope & Charity will keep its name, all of its current employees will be offered the opportunity to remain as Hope Haven staff, and support raised for the facility from the community will stay with the Storm Lake operation. Wiemold said the staff was informed of the decision Wednesday. There was little surprise, because leaders had been transparent about the likelihood of change. They planned to announce the merger to families later that night.

“This decision will maintain FHC’s local roots, while strengthening our mission for years into the future,” Wiemold said of the merger.

The change is expected to be seamless. “The kids won’t notice anything different, and that’s the way we intend it,” Hope Haven CEO Matt Buley said. “I’m excited to see this play out, and confident the children, their families and the community as a whole will see continued excellence in our services in Storm Lake.”

There is wisdom behind the merger, he suggests.

“The world of disability services in Iowa has gotten increasingly complex. Changes are frequent, and throughout our industry there are questions about funding through managed care. We can have a greater impact by combining our strengths.” It boils down to children and their needs being met, he said.

The merger almost didn’t take place, however. Earlier in the talks, the previous CEO decided to retire, and told FHC leaders that his agency would pull out of consideration. Buley was able to keep the talks going when he came on board, just over three months ago.

Hope Haven has taken over other organizations in the region that were in danger of closing their doors. That isn’t the case with FHC, which has been operating in the black.

The FHC board considered that while still sound, services might have been lost entirely if the organization remained on its own and fell into financial difficulty.

The future of the facility may come in the form of a different model. As in other forms of care, the emphasis is moving toward community-based rather than institutional facilities. “Having 32 people living under one roof is becoming kind of an archaic model,” Wiemold said. She feels confident that the FHC buildings, however, will continue in use in some form well into the future.

Partnering with Hope Haven, which has 10 times the budget of FHC and over 700 staff members, the local facility will also gain access to more technology, finance and human resources expertise. Hope Haven is deeply involved in services to adults and mental health care, which could open up opportunities for growth and expansion for FHC. Most of the children served there have mental health issues as well as intellectual disabilities, Wiemold says. “This could be a huge asset for Storm Lake.”

FHC serves about 80 children, up to 32 living at the facility and around others remaining in the home and traveling in for services. It also operates a group home in Storm Lake to assist teenagers in transitioning into the community setting, and a respite program in which families can access short term care.

Hope Haven serves more than 1,600 children and adults. It operates in Rock Valley, Spencer, Spirit Lake, Estherville, Orange City and Sibley with outreach services to several other communities in northwest Iowa and southwest Minnesota.

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Contact Information

Faith, Hope & Charity
1815 West Milwaukee
Storm Lake, IA 50588
Phone: 712-732-5127
Fax: 712-732-6002