Claremore Daily Progress

November 5, 2013

Career dedicated to Youth

McSpadden taking position with Summit Physical Therapy

Rebecca Hattaway
Staff Writer

CLAREMORE —

Herb McSpadden has dedicated his entire career to helping youth and families in the community overcome their circumstances and succeed in life. 
It has been his passion as counselor and later as executive director of Rogers County Youth Services, where he has served a total of 17 years.
McSpadden’s last day with the organization will be Nov. 15. He will take his new position as Administrator for Summit Physical Therapy & Rehab Nov. 18.
“When I was here the first time, I got engaged to my wife and we were married,” he said. “When I came back, I had my first child, then my second, then third. I got my master’s degree. So a lot of my major life events are tied to this place. You don’t just pour your life into a place and walk away lightly. This has been one of the hardest decisions I’ve made.”
It wasn’t the path he thought he’d take. As a college student, McSpadden had planned for a career in banking. 
A business statistics class at OSU changed all that.
“It basically destroyed my confidence in my ability to get my business degree, so after basically flunking out of OSU, I took a sociology class at RSU,” he said. (Ironically, years later he went back to OSU and earned his master’s in business.)
It was around that time that McSpadden started working with the youth at his church in Chelsea.
“I loved it and I loved my sociology class, so I thought I’d give social services a try,” he said.
In 1994, he took his first job in the field, serving as a counselor at RCYS.
“Every day it was so rewarding working with kids who had been through hard times and giving them hope and encouragement and then seeing them succeed, whether it be making it through a semester in school without getting into a fight or passing the fifth grade. I realized success comes in all shapes and sizes,” he said. “Some of the kids still keep in touch with me; that’s what it’s all about.”
After a few years away, including time serving at Brush Creek Youth Ranch, McSpadden returned to RCYS as executive director in 2000.
“We have such an amazing staff here,” he said. “It is a privilege being able to support our counselors in their very difficult job. In our shelter, you know we’re doing what we need to do when the kids feel love and respected and don’t want to leave.”
One of the biggest changes he’s seen over the years has been a shift in shelter philosophy from merely providing youth a safe place to live,  to actually teaching them skills they will need when they leave.
He said many teens come to the shelter not knowing basic life skills, like how to do laundry or make a meal for themselves.
“Now we’re not just giving them a good home, we are teaching them and training them and empowering them to be successful in life,” he said.
They’ve also implemented Love and Logic parenting classes as part of their counseling services.
“We still want a lot more parents to take advantage of this great program. We see a lot more success with the kids when the family is involved in counseling,” he said. “One at a time, we are taking care of needs and helping as many as we can.”
While there have been countless success stories over the years, McSpadden said his biggest disappointment is not being able to see the plans for a larger facility become reality.
“We desperately need a new building and more space. We are sending kids out of the county because we’re full all the time in our shelter,” he said. “But the board is continuing to move forward with the project with the Rogers County Adult Day Care (who share the current facility). They have started working with a consultant to kick off a (fundraising) campaign, so someday I will get to see the finished product.”
It is the relationships with the RCYS staff that McSpadden says he will miss the most. 
“We encourage each other, we support each other,” he said. “They will continue to make a huge difference in the lives of the people they help, so I’m not worried about that at all, but it’s hard leaving people you’ve invested so much of your life with.”
The job does take its toll, he said, and while he has considered leaving for a while, McSpadden had two criteria for a new job. 
“Number one was that it wouldn’t be in the non-profit business, because you’re always working from behind, you can never get ahead. Number two was that I would still be helping people,” he said. “When the job at Summit came open, it was the perfect fit for me. They are such a community-minded organization, it makes it easy to jump from where I’m at to a place with such a good reputation in the community. I have a lot of respect for them and I’m excited to be a part of that team.”
Best of all, McSpadden said, the job will allow him to remain part of the community he loves.
“This community is such a great place to live and raise kids,” he said. “My job (at RCYS) has done many things for me: it has made me more aware of the hurts and struggles, but also the strength and resilience, of people. It’s made me more sensitive and compassionate to what others have gone through. It’s also made me a better parent. But on top of all that, it has helped me appreciate the good we have in our community.”
That’s something he will take with him.