CLIFTON PARK, N.Y. — The idea of community has always held a prominent position in the structure of CAPTAIN CHS and the organization’s newly appointed director Andy Gilpin sees no reason for making a change.
An 11-year veteran with the organization, Gilpin was selected by the board of directors take over the leadership role upon the retirement last month of longtime leader Sue Catroppa. The move was a comfortable one for the organization as Gilpin has been the associate executive director for several years.
The mission of CAPTAIN CHS (Community Human Services) is to support and empower people of all ages to reach their goals of personal growth and self-sufficiency. Its vision is to strive to be a recognized leader in finding effective solutions to social issues in the communities it serves.
CAPTAIN CHS does all those things as a volunteer-driven organization; one that is well known locally while continuing to form new partnerships all the time.
Gilpin is originally from Hanover, PA, a town not far from Gettysburg. After earning an undergraduate degree in political science from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and interning in Washington, D.C. he gravitated to the nonprofit sector.
He joined CAPTAIN in 2010 on a part-time basis to help with its major fundraiser, An Unbridled Affair. The event is held each year in Saratoga Springs. Shortly thereafter he was offered the position of Youth Shelter Administrator for the organization’s youth homeless shelter. He was promoted to Program Director shortly after Catroppa’s arrival.
“I took the job as the Youth Shelter Administrator because I’d come from working in residential care and had experience in so I said, yes, I’d like to interview because I love what you guys do and thankfully I was hired,” he said. “After Sue took over I was offered the job of Program Director which later evolved into Associate Executive Director.”
Despite the title of Program Director Gilpin never moved far from finding ways through CAPTAIN to reach out to homeless or disadvantaged youth. He was instrumental in CAPTAIN’s expansion of services for homeless youth including the establishment of the Street Outreach Program, the collaboration with Saratoga and Schenectady counties’ Safe Harbour programs, and the recent opening of Supportive Housing for Homeless Youth in Saratoga Springs.
He is the co-chairman of the state Office of Children and Family Services Runaway and Homeless Youth Advisory Committee, co-chairman of the Capital Region Advisory Board on Youth Homelessness, co-chairman of the Saratoga/North Country Continuum of Care Board, and co-chairman of the Coordinated Entry Committee.
“It all came out of my first real job out of college when I realized the federal government wasn’t for me,” he said. “I began looking locally and took a job in residential care for adjudicated youth. It spoke to me; I enjoyed the job and my co-workers and really enjoyed helping the kids. That background of residential care for youth really helped cement for me what I wanted to do.”
Though a bit different from working with adjudicated youth, Gilpin said he found working with local youth through CAPTAIN’s programs fulfilling.
“They’re kids in need and once I was there it kind of reinforced for me that this was a population that needs help; they’re not a population that’s system related, not mental health, not juvenile justice, not foster care but are being kicked out or unwanted or find themselves in a homeless situation and here’s a program that can help. It helps them and the community.”
Gilpin said he dove into the need that he saw and, at the same time imbedded himself with a number of organizations that can lend assistance. In his positions as co-chair of several of them he now has the opportunity to help coordinate that assistance.
“Now I can be at the front end of what we’re doing locally, regionally, and state-wide with youth homelessness,” he said.
Homelessness whether youth or adult is one of the four main focus areas for CAPTAIN CHS. The others are hunger, economic crisis, and community support and empowerment programs.
“It covers a wide spectrum. On one end you’re working with people who need food or shelter or have another crisis, like lack of heat,” he said. “For those we’re there to support them. But the real goal is to find ways to move them along the spectrum, get them community support and empowerment to get them back on their feet and self-sufficient. The growth that we have is all an answer to the need.”
In addition to its runaway shelter, CAPTAIN offers 32 different services and programs including food distribution for students during the COVID-19 pandemic, a street outreach program, an emergency food pantry, Cheryl’s Lodge in Halfmoon Heights for student computer and internet service, and senior services through its CARE Links program.
For 2021 Gilpin said he wants to make sure all CAPTAIN’s existing programs and services are running well before looking into any ideas for expansion.
However he did note that due to its flexibility and its county connections, CAPTAIN will be the lead agency for distributing $975,000 allocated to Saratoga County through the CARES Act of 2020 which was enacted by the federal government. The funds are to be used to give relief to homelessness that’s the result of the pandemic.
Saratoga County Department of Social Services developed a comprehensive community-wide plan to implement the funding with eight different nonprofit organizations. CAPTAIN CHS will act as lead agency and is tasked with coordinating those programs and services.
“We will subcontract with the other local organizations to make sure that funding is supporting the community and addressing homelessness especially in light of the pandemic,” Gilpin said. “If you want to get things done you have to do it local first.”
He added that the funds are definitely needed.
“I’m really proud of everything our organization did during the pandemic and continues to do,” he said. “It’s great being in a place where so many people want to do the right thing.”