Our History

Introduction

The history of our agency 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 small 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 families had successfully developed a hunting-gardening-gathering economy with a minimum of welfare and family breakup. Suddenly, Native American families from these communities were forced to move out of the bottomlands with a pocketful of money received for their houses, farms and ranches lost to the rising waters created by the construction of North Dakota’s Garrison Dam.

Impoverished areas quickly developed in Parshall and New Town, ND, and families scattered out on land allotments quickly learned that everything Grandmother River had provided now cost money – from water and fuel 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 and relationships, 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 Indian students from 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 (1) placing expert friends in local communities and (2) 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. Reverend 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 of the new boarding home for Indian youth.

Early Development

The new home had 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 public schools in Bismarck.

Five junior high students entered Hall Home for the 1966-1967 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:

  • Parental consents changed to placement only by court order;
  • One group home now became two with the addition of the Good Bird Home;
  • Public school education was complemented with treatment;
  • Severe financial problems for the agency changed to a solid, more sustainable financial base for operations; and,
  • The house parent model of care changed to that of house managers complemented by a professional social worker.

During the 1960s, Keith Bear, today a world-renowned Mandan-Hidatsa storyteller and musician from the MHA Nation (Three Affiliated Tribes), was one of the first youth who lived at Charles Hall and attended Bismarck High School. In later years, Bear has appeared as a solo presenter, performer and storyteller at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, the Kennedy Center, Lewis & Clark Bicentennial signature events throughout the United States, the International Storyteller Festival in Wales, UK, and other cultural programs throughout the US and Europe.  He, too, soloed with the National Symphony and is an award-winning recording artist. Bear is a pipe carrier and ceremonialist and belongs to the Buffalo Dance Society. He remains active with Charles Hall today through service on the Charles Hall Foundation Board of Directors (2019-2020). 

Later Developments

Following Brinckerhoff’s resignation in 1986, the board employed Gene Johnson as administrator. He led in establishing a third group home, Case Home, with a successful capital funds drive. George “Bud” Perry replaced Johnson in 1989 and continued the progress of his predecessors. State regulations now required that, with the third home, a master’s level social worker was needed to head the agency’s programming. Perry quickly moved toward enhanced services and established an emergency shelter care center in Mandan in a leased home. In 1995, the board moved the center to leased quarters at Heartview. Following Bud Perry’s administrative leadership into the 1990s, Perry Smith (MSW) and Carrol Meyers Dobler served as agency executive directors in the early 2000s.  

Continued Leadership

In August 2004, Gayla Sherman (MSW, CIT, CCTP) moved from Kansas City to join Charles Hall as its new executive director. 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 and a homeless shelter and community-based service program for low-income families in greater Kansas City.

Sherman holds graduate degrees in social work and theology and a Bachelor of Journalism degree from the University of Texas at Austin. She brings multiple decades of fundraising and public relations experience from work in higher education and theological education, as well as in residential treatment programs, Girls Scouts, and other non-profit organizations. Sherman has taught as adjunct faculty at William Jewell College (MO) and the University of Mary (ND). As a journalist, Sherman worked for several years as a producer with National Public Radio and the Longhorn Radio Network in Austin, Texas. She received the Barbara Jordan Award for Best Radio Public Affairs Programming while at the Longhorn Radio Network and served as congressional office staff in Washington, DC, for Rep. Les Aspin (D-WI) during her early professional life in the 1980s.

Sherman has received noteworthy awards since joining Charles Hall, including the 2007 COUWA (Council of United Way Agencies) Leadership Award voted by United Way agency executives from the Bismarck-Mandan area. She, too, was named with the International Zonta Rose Award for humanitarian leadership and advocacy in 2014. In 2016, Sherman became a certified clinical trauma professional (CCTP) with the International Association of Trauma Professionals. In 2019, the Marquis Who’s Who awarded her the Albert Nelson Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award.

On July 11, 2005, Gayle R. Klopp joined Gayla Sherman as co-executive director. The husband-wife team, together, brings almost 60 years of experience in non-profit and for-profit management to the foster care agency. Klopp held management roles in a variety of industries prior to coming to Charles Hall, including not-for-profit, healthcare, consulting, transportation, and manufacturing and computer technology organizations. 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, ND. Klopp served in the Second Division, United States Marine Corps during the 1970s. His educational background includes degrees in business administration and theology.

Sherman and Klopp always dreamed of one day working together, as their vocational backgrounds and strengths complement these two professionals well. Today, Sherman serves as executive director for all programs and resource development/public relations. Klopp oversees administration and operations, including finance, human resources and facilities management. Both Sherman and Klopp report independently to the organization’s board of directors, and both support the board in its oversight and governance.

Charles Hall has evolved from that first recommendation in 1961 to a competent and respected agency, helping youth from all backgrounds cross that bridge from troubled adolescence to mature adulthood through the loving care and professional expertise provided by house managers (now called residential care managers), resident life coaches, family engagement specialists and treatment coordinators/social workers, an independent life skills educator and mentor program coordinator, nurses, program and residential services directors, facilities maintenance staff, accounting and communications staff, and chief administrators – co-executive directors Gayle Klopp (administration and operations) and Gayla Sherman (programs and resource development).

In 2019, the agency’s name changed from Charles Hall Youth Services to Charles Hall Youth & Family Services (dba).  With the name change, new programming now includes family engagement services and aftercare, along with additional family engagement staff and quality improvement/program analysis staffing.

We stand on the shoulders of so many faithful people who worked for the good of others. Ours is no easy task. But, we have the children, and we must respond with compassion, energy, and intelligence. The children are a gift entrusted to us.  Daily we must ask that God bless our work, guide our efforts, and perform miracles as only God can do. Then, we must be patient and witness the signs that God, indeed, is at work for good and with love.

– Gayla Sherman, Executive Director, Programs and Resource Development

Looking to the Future

Founded almost 60 years ago, Charles Hall is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization with multi-disciplinary programming and strong community partners including area schools, physicians, therapists and mental health professionals, and other program providers (e.g., YMCA, Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, Bismarck Parks & Recreation).

Today, the agency is committed to identifying and building on youths’ strengths and capacity for resilience. Connection and hope are critical as our staff works to help youth build inner connection, a sense of self-worth, and a capacity to manage feelings. We help boys and girls discover renewed hope, earn self-esteem, and learn essential life skills to navigate daily challenges and develop healthy relationships.

Charles Hall Youth & Family Services seeks to meet the needs of youth in a holistic way, working toward healing and strengthening youth emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually. We respect the strong connection between healthy spirituality and the well-being of today’s adolescents and teenagers. Our goal is to help youth develop emotional stability/security and psychological resilience, physical health, and genuine self-esteem.

Since its founding in 1965, Charles Hall has served approximately 5,000 at-risk youth. Some youth have stayed in care for as little as a few days or a few weeks, while others stayed in placement for six months or more. During the agency’s early years, youth lived at Charles Hall for multiple years and completed their high school diplomas and graduated from area high schools.

Through our experiences thus far, we have learned that the youth of this generation face challenges unlike any of previous generations due to technological advances, economic challenges, fractured social and family structures, the prevalent drug culture, and globalization.

We remain committed to youths’ families and communities, as well as to the partnerships that are essential to ensure greater health, wellness, and daily functioning capability for all families. We, too, recognize our special history with tribal nations. With approximately 50% of youth in care being Native American, we commit to our continued striving to provide tribally-appropriate care and opportunities for Indian youth.

For more than a decade, Charles Hall has been an innovator and leader in strength-based work and trauma-informed practice. Since 2005, the agency has been doing strength-based, non-punitive work through partnerships with the Teel Institute (Kansas City), Reclaiming Youth International, the American Re-EDucation Association, Charlie Appelstein and others. Dr. Bruce Perry (ChildTrauma Academy) introduced agency staff to trauma-informed care in 2008 and formalized a training partnership with the agency in 2010. Today, Charles Hall partners with the Traumatic Stress Institute of Klingberg Family Centers (CT) with Risking Connection and the Restorative Approach®.  

As a Qualified Residential Treatment Program (QRTP) serving children and families across North Dakota and, at times, neighboring states, Charles Hall is committed to programming, partnerships, and service which can create connection and build hope.

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 and rediscover hope.

– Gayle Klopp, Executive Director, Administration and Operations