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Published: Monday, 3/21/2005

Unnerving sincerity new director's forte

BY RACHEL ZINN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Charles Powell says a key to his success has been his desire to connect with people and exemplify genuineness. Charles Powell says a key to his success has been his desire to connect with people and exemplify genuineness.
WADSWORTH / BLADE Enlarge

After the retirement of Anthony Marcson, founder and executive director for the last 30 years of the Children's Resource Center in Bowling Green, there was a nervous buzz among the agency's staff.

Some of the anxiety turned into excitement when Charles Powell took over as head of the organization, which provides mental health services for Wood County children. Mr. Powell started the job about six weeks ago.

"He is very respectful of the legacy he's walking into," clinical director William Donnelly said. "People are optimistic about his ability to lead us into a new era."

During his many years of experience managing mental health and youth agencies, Mr. Powell, 51, has relied on his almost unnerving sincerity to make himself a successful leader.

"It's a matter of connecting with people by being genuine," he said. "I'm always thirsting for knowledge and for a way to be better."

Mr. Powell, a native of the southwestern Ohio town of Piqua, started out in the social services industry on a whim.

In college, Mr. Powell majored in international journalism, but he put aside his dreams of reporting abroad to be with Tecla, his wife of 28 years. After an unsatisfying stint reporting for a small local newspaper, he applied for a job leading a youth services bureau that served three counties in southern Ohio.

"It was a real challenge to my abilities, but some of the board members recognized that I was someone who would be able to connect people with other people," Mr. Powell said. "There was never a dull moment, because I had to learn so much so fast."

Mr. Powell directed the agency for eight years, helping to provide counseling, alternative schools, and foster care for children. He rebuilt the declining organization by getting public and private funding and support from community groups.

"We totally transformed the agency through grants and new programs," he said. "It made me realize that this was the kind of work I wanted to do."

In the late 1980s, after receiving a master's degree in clinical counseling, Mr. Powell became a juvenile court director in Ohio's Miami County. He wrote a $7 million grant to build a juvenile residential center and organized a six-county coalition to operate the center.

"These were counties that traditionally hadn't worked together," he said.

Mr. Powell later worked in the corporate world running a company that oversaw psychiatric care centers, juvenile corrections agencies, sex offender treatment programs, and job training centers.

"It was a lucrative career, but it was unfulfilling," he said. "We were more about money than we were about kids."

He most recently directed a mental health agency called Safe Haven in Piqua before joining Children's Resource Center. Since he started at the center in February, Mr. Powell has focused on meeting one-on-one with staff members and getting to know the Bowling Green area.

"Charles walks around, stops in, and asks people how they're doing and what they're working on," said Jayna Reagan, one of the agency's program managers. "I think everyone is surprised and happy that all our ideas are going to be heard."

Mr. Powell already has a few long-term goals for strengthening the Children's Resource Center, which serves children from ages 2 to 18. The agency offers a variety of services, including residential treatment, workshops for young parents, psychiatric services, classes for students with severe emotional difficulties, and assistance with placing children in foster care.

"There are some real immediate needs out there in the community where we could be doing even more," Mr. Powell said.

He said he hopes to expand services that educate people about preventing problems like substance abuse and becoming more involved with foster care. Also, Mr. Powell wants to build on the center's network of volunteers, who are mostly Bowling Green State University students, by reaching out to older residents.

For now, Mr. Powell said he could not be more pleased with his first few weeks at the Children's Resource Center.

"I just feel at home here," he said. "It's returning to my roots of small town, Midwestern America where people have good values and really care and want to make a difference."

Contact Rachel Zinn at: rzinn@theblade.com or 419-410-5055.



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