Linda Kemp was a member of the Board of Directors and the first nurse (RN) for Dakota Children’s Inc. Joanne Varey was another Board member who would have all three of her children in residence at the Marie Avenue home. Galen Pate, John Lemay, and myself completed that first Board of Directors. I was privileged to serve as the pediatrician for a large number of the children who were the first residents of Dakota Children’s, Inc.
|A luncheon meeting took place in 1971 at the Cherokee Sirloin Room in West St. Paul. The participants at that meeting were Galen Pate, John LeMay, Linda Kemp, and myself. At about that same period of time, Galen Pate, who at that time was President of the Minnesota Banker’s Association, had approached the local banking community with the hope of obtaining financing for a new residential facility in West St. Paul to care for children with disabilities who were being released at near that same time from the State facilities which had housed such children. As a result of that meeting and many others to follow over the next year, and with the dedicated efforts by Galen and Karen Pate, the first residential home for these children was opened in 1972 at the Marie Avenue site. Forty-four children, the first of which was Betsy Pate, would come to live and be cared for at that home by a small dedicated staff and always concerned and involved parents. |
Pat Wilson was the first of the CEOs of Dakota Children’s Inc., hired by the Board of Directors in, I believe 1972 or early 1973.
In the early years, Board Meetings were held around a long table in the basement conference room of Signal Bank. Galen Pate was President of Signal Bank at that time. There were no computers, no CFO, and, thus, strategic and operational planning was outlined and detailed by hand on large white sheets of table-paper spread across that long table.
Dakota Children’s home had (4) wings, each housing 10-11 children in double and single bedrooms. There was a small complement of staff for each wing. There was a small Executive Director’s office on the main level; there was also a nursing station and a few staff offices. The lower level of the building housed, in part, a large rehabilitation and exercise and programming room and a few smaller offices and storage rooms. Of course, there were kitchen facilities and food preparation facilities. The large, beautiful, lawn of Dakota Children’s Home was a great site for parties, outdoor recreational events and special events for the clients and their families and supporters.
The first of the Dakota Children’s Galas was held at the Lafayette Club in the western suburbs of Minneapolis. Hubert Humphrey was the honored dignitary at that first Gala. I remember that Gala if for no other reason than the principal dinner organizer decided that the meal would be served in the European tradition with the salad course following the entrée.
Over the last 40 years, Dakota Children’s Inc, and, later, Dakota Communities, has grown with respect to the number of corporate owed group homes, the marked increase in our wonderful dedicated staff, and the increased number of clients, now adults, served. One thing, however, has NOT changed: dedication to the mission of seeing every child and, today, every adult client reach their maximum potential and achieve integration in their community.
All of us who have had the privilege to serve and be part of Dakota Children’s, Inc. and Dakota Communities are indebted to the spirit and gentle influence of Betsy Pate and to the inspiration and forward-thinking of Galen and Karen Pate. We are all continually amazed and grateful to the dedication and commitment of our staff, volunteers, families, donors and supporters.
Many new challenges confront Dakota Communities as we look ahead. I know these challenges will be met head-on with innovative, thoughtful, and successful resolutions by this current Board, future board members, our outstanding new CEO, Julie Manworren, our staff and supporters.
It has been my honor to serve and to have served for five or six (3) year terms as a member of the Board of Directors of this remarkable non-profit organization.
Charles E. Pitzele, MD,
Founding Board Member, Dakota Children’s Inc.; current Board Member, Dakota Communities, Inc.
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Hubert Humphrey speaking at Dakota's Children's groundbreaking in 1972
Invitation to the 1st Gala|