It began on the Ft. Berthold Indian Reservation in the 1950s and 1960s, a time of great change and disrupted lives. Work on the Garrison Dam had been completed in 1955, and three towns had been forced to move. The most damaging impacts were upon Indian families and communities who had lived for generations in the bottomlands of “Grandmother River,” where they had successfully developed a hunting-gardening-gathering economy with a minimum of welfare and family breakup. Suddenly, they were forced to move out of the bottomlands with a pocketful of money received for houses, farms and ranches lost to the rising waters.

Impoverished areas quickly developed in Parshall and New Town, ND, and families scattered out on allotments quickly learned that everything Grandmother River had provided now cost money, from water and fuel for families to shelter and feed for cattle. The wonder of it all was that many families made the transition and became productive members of new communities, schools, social clubs and churches. However, many became welfare families, beset by poverty, alcohol abuse, broken homes, violence, premature deaths, deep cultural conflicts and great physical and psychological suffering.

Ft. Berthold Council of Congregational Churches
Concerns for youth trapped in poverty with little chance of reaching productive adulthood led finally in 1961 to the appointment of a “Boarding Home Committee” by the Ft. Berthold Council of Congregational Churches. The Committee recommended establishing a Christian boarding home for six to eight students at Ft. Berthold, and the Council approved the recommendation.

Nothing happened until 1964, when the national United Church of Christ convened a conference of church leaders from reservations in Wisconsin, South Dakota and North Dakota to focus on “What can be done to help broken families and youth in trouble?” Each state was to “nail down” specific actions it wanted to take. North Dakota leaders selected (a) placing expert friends in local communities and (b) establishing a group home at Wahpeton for children graduating from the BIA elementary boarding school there, to provide a “bridge” experience over which youth might walk into “emotional maturity and adequate adolescence.”

First Home
Lee Rockwell, from the UCC Division of Health and Welfare Services, visited state and BIA agencies to learn the needs, resources and responses to a possible group home. He then wrote a “Working Prospectus,” the first serious description of what Ft. Berthold church leaders had discussed for many years. Rev. Alva Taylor, pastor at Garrison and Chairman of the State Conference’s Ft. Berthold Administrative Committee, began to implement the Prospectus. A house was bought in south Bismarck, the present Hall Home, and Lynn and Midge Gaylor arrived in the fall of 1965 to become the first house parents and administrators.

Early Development
However, there was no board of directors, and there was no clearly defined program for the Gaylors to administer. When a board was finally organized, it called a meeting of county, state, tribal and BIA leaders to help define the services needed and the role Hall Home should play. Three guidelines emerged from that meeting: (1) Hall Home would provide a re-learning experience for youth suffering from neglect and poor environment and structure; (2) referrals could come from public and private agencies; and (3) court orders could be waived where parental consent and cooperation were obtained. Youth would attend the public schools.

Five junior high students entered Hall Home for the 1966-67 school year, all on parental consent agreements. The Gaylors left for Alaska in the middle of the first school year, and Austin Engel served as acting administrator until Pete Brinckerhoff arrived in the summer of 1968 to begin 18 years of faithful service as administrator. Under his skillful leadership, basic changes took place: (a) from parental consents to only court orders, (b) from one to two group homes, (c) from education to a mixture of education and treatment, (d) from severe financial problems to a solid financial base, and (e) from house parents to house managers backed by a professional social worker.

Later Developments
Following Pete’s resignation in 1986, the board employed Gene Johnson as administrator. He led in establishing a third group home and in carrying out a successful capital funds drive. George “Bud” Perry replaced Gene in 1989 and continued the progress of his predecessors. Under state guidelines, the third home had required employing a master degree social worker to head the program. Bud quickly moved for greater efficiency by establishing an emergency shelter care center in Mandan in a leased home. In 1995, the board moved the center to leased quarters at Heartview.

Charles Hall Youth Services has evolved from that first recommendation in 1961 to a competent and respected agency that serves troubled youth each year, helping both Indian and non-Indian youth cross that bridge from troubled adolescence to mature adulthood through the loving care and professional expertise provided by house managers, social workers and administrators.

Continued Leadership
Following Bud Perry’s administrative leadership in the 1980s and ‘90s, Perry Smith (MSW) and Carrol Meyers Dobler served as agency executive directors in the early 2000s. In August 2004, Gayla Sherman (MSW) moved from Kansas City to join the Charles Hall staff team as its new executive director.

Sherman holds a graduate degree in social work and theology, as well as a Bachelor of Journalism degree from the University of Texas at Austin. Prior to coming to Charles Hall, Sherman served non-profit organizations in Texas, Kentucky, Kansas and Missouri, including work with a large domestic violence shelter, a homeless shelter and community-based service program for low-income families in greater Kansas City. She brings multiple years of fund-raising experience from work in higher education and theological education, as well as in residential treatment programs, Girls Scouts, and other non-profit organizations. As a journalist, Sherman worked for several years as a producer with the National Public Radio Affiliate and the Longhorn Radio Network in Austin, Texas.

On July 11, 2005, Gayle R. Klopp joined Gayla Sherman as co-executive director for Charles Hall Youth Services. The husband-wife team, together, brings over 50 years experience in non-profit and for-profit management to the foster care agency. Klopp has held management roles in a variety of industries, including not-for-profit, healthcare, consulting, transportation, manufacturing and computer technology. His background includes 30 years of experience in business and human resource management, staff development, accounting and computer database design. Klopp also served American Baptist Homes of the Midwest as corporate director of human resources for a seven-state region. Prior to coming to Charles Hall as co-executive director, Klopp served as a member of the human resources team at MDU Resources, a national/international infrastructure firm located in Bismarck, North Dakota.

“We have always dreamed of one day working together,” says Sherman, “if the opportunity opened for us.” “The co-executive structure enables each of us to utilize our vocational strengths and complement one another as professional colleagues,” comments Klopp. Sherman serves as executive director for programs, resource development and public relations; Klopp oversees administration and operations, including: finance, human resources, residential services and facilities management.

The parents of two adult children and two grandchildren, Sherman and Klopp know, firsthand, the overwhelming challenges today’s parents and youth face. “Young people are our hope for the future,” says Sherman. “Communities must recognize their invaluable role in nurturing children into adulthood. All children need love, expectations, responsibility, and above all, the chance to see possibilities, sense hope, and earn authentic self-esteem that can carry them throughout life’s challenges.”

Looking to the Future
Youth from all races and cultures face increasing obstacles on the road to adulthood in the 21st century. At the same time, those who labor to meet the needs of troubled youth face uncertain funding in the years ahead, as government funding becomes more restrictive and other funding more competitive.

That is why Charles Hall Youth Services has established the Charles Hall Foundation, a supporting foundation that will be used to establish sustainable funding for Charles Hall Youth Services. Those who want more information on planned giving and the Charles Hall Foundation are urged to contact Charles Hall Youth Services at (701) 255-2773, or P.O. Box 1995, Bismarck, N.D. 58502-1995.