|Gateway Children’s Services celebrates 40 years
By Tom Marshall
Senior Advocate writer
Gateway Children’s Services observed its 40-year anniversary July 8 with a celebration at its facility, 37 N. Maysville St.
There were photographs shared, a birthday cake, snacks and light refreshments after a short program. State Sen. Ralph Alvarado presented a Kentucky Senate Resolution recognizing Gateway’s 40 years of service and Mt. Sterling Mayor Al Botts and Judge-Executive Wally Johnson presented a proclamation naming July 8 as Gateway Children’s Service Day.
Alvarado and state Rep. David Hale were also presented with appreciation awards for their ongoing support of children and families.
Among those in attendance were Gateway CEO Joe Gomes, former CEO Kaye Templin, incoming COO Denise Spittler and board members Botts and Jesse Hodgson.
Gomes told the Advocate that Gateway has come a long way over the years.
“From our humble beginnings in a small little facility down on Spring Street to where we are today, it’s hard to imagine we have come this far,” Gomes said. “Yes, much has changed over the course of 40 years, but the one thing that has always remained consistent has been our dedication and commitment to serve children and families. I am so proud of our organization and how we have grown to meet the needs of children and families.
“Along the way we have had many people help us ... people like Adrian Arnold, Kaye Templin, our board members, employees, donors and friends. So, on behalf of all of us at Gateway Children’s Services, and especially our kids and families, thank you,” he added.
In a letter to supporters, Gomes revisited Gateway’s history, which dates back to the establishment of the organization in 1981 as an eight-bed facility on Spring Street.
Initial funding was provided by a grant from the Dept. of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Gomes recalled.
Gateway’s sole mission/purpose at the time, he said, was to provide a safe alternative for children from being placed in adult jails who had been charged with minor offenses. For 24 years Templin led the organization.
Today, the letter says, GCS is a vibrant and growing program that provides a wide array of services to children and families.
From its sole mission back in 1981, the letter notes that services today include a 28-bed qualified residential treatment program, emergency shelter, alternative to detention programs, therapeutic foster care and medically complex foster care programs, adoptions, outpatient behavioral health/substance abuse counseling/DUI programs.
In a separate letter to supporters, Templin expressed pride in the organization’s work over the years.
“My heart knew that ‘our children’ were worth saving because they had already suffered a lifetime of pain and trauma in just their few short years alive,” Templin said. “They were far more likely to be victims rather than criminals, but many still considered our runaways as throwaways and that was not OK.”
Templin also expressed satisfaction in how the facility cared for the youths.
“A major source of pride for us was that our non-secure ‘alternative to jail’ program maintained a policy of no touch and no restraints,” Templin said. “Our children had already been hurt by adults who should have cared for them.
“Our overriding goal was to show consistent fairness using rules and consequences but without the use of physical restraint,” she added. “It wasn’t rocket science and it wasn’t always easy, but it worked. We never had a child, nor a staff member injured.”
Templin cited education as another point of pride, even from the earliest days.
“The classroom had not been a place of success for most of our children, but consistency, safety and caring, dedicated teachers led to excitement about learning and academic achievement,” she said.
Templin was also optimistic about the future, judging by where the organization is now.
“Today, I look back with pride and at the future with hope,” Templin said. “The journey has taken many turns but looking at the organization today is proof that the effort was, as I always maintained, worth it.
“I’m so proud how the organization has grown and love hearing updates about their progress,” she added. “It was always about the kids for me. Whenever the struggles became almost too much, I left my desk, walked into the dayroom and spent time listing to the kids.”
Botts told the Advocate that GCS has a lot to celebrate.
“I think it is very important for all of us to take time out of our busy schedules and to celebrate our successes,” Botts said. “Gateway Children’s Services (GCS) is a wonderful success story. From humble beginnings 40 years ago to today, GCS has continued to grow and expand services here in our community decade after decade. The organization provides a safe place for children in need, and GCS provides the support, structure and critical life skills those children need to have better lives today and in the future.
“Montgomery County is very fortunate to have an organization like this in the heart of our community,” he added. “I also appreciate the fact that GCS has also provided employment opportunities for our citizens. Many individuals prefer working evening or night hours, and there are always opportunities for employment at GCS. Congratulations to Joe Gomes and all his team at GCS for reaching this milestone, and thanks to all those employees who have worked for GCS over the years and brought the organization to where it is today. Well done!”
Alvarado posted the following on social media after the celebration, “Gateway Children’s Services—40th anniversary celebration! Joined Rep. David Hale and Mayor Al Botts in Mt. Sterling today to recognize the fine work performed by GCS to help protect our children for the past four decades. I was pleased to present a Senate Resolution commemorating this achievement. I was also surprised to join Rep. Hale in receiving an award from GCS for our legislative work in