Our History

 

I am certain of nothing,
but of the holiness of the Heart’s affections,
and the truth of Imagination.

 - John Keats

 

20 YEARS OF RELATIONSHIPS IN HELPING OTHERS

 

I think the greatest call, effort, or motivation (whatever you want to call your reason for being here) one can have in life is to help others less fortunate than we are.  A wise man told me a few years ago, "Everything we are has been given to us."  I think I then learned from him that the only response left is to "give it all back."

GMFS started with a Dream so simple it's almost hard to think it was an idea of any significance.  I had been in a number of top-down agencies and, to be honest, I was sick and tired of all the egos, politics, and power games just for the sake of control--not really for the so-called Mission we were suppose to do.  So when I got fired from my last chain-of-command agency, my wife said they were just trying to put the fear of God in me, to knuckle under.  She may be right.  Anyway, I thought, hmm....this is Human Services...so maybe we should treat each other Humanely??? ...all of us have equal worth, and all of us should be able to give voice to our creative ideas and concerns.  Why not have adults treated like adults, not children?  Why not have a democratic work environment?  Really it's not much different than the one America has:  a Congress (the GMFS Self Managed Teams), a president (yes me, the checkbook man in this case), and a Supreme Court--the Dream Team (Yes, we are kind of attached to strange names).  It has worked very, very well over these 20 years.  As I always say, imperfectly of course, is there anything perfect?  But as it stands right now, I know of No Other Human Service agency that has a Board of Directors made up entirely of Staff.  Sometimes we forget just how revolutionary that one little detail is among many others.  We wanted new counselors to feel that GMFS was about as close to private practice as one could get and yet still have the support of an agency behind you.  It didn't take me too long to also see that the Mission is really quite simple, too.  I call it the "Holy Three C's" of our business, what we need to nurture to be successful:  Counselors, Clients, and Customers.  If we try hard at all three of these, we will never be far off the mark.  Again, pretty simple, isn't it?

So, it all started in our little home in Willmar, MN on April 15, 1992.  That was our GMFS office and our meeting place.  I struggled to give us a name, and after a number of stupid ones, I finally went, duh, "Greater Minnesota Family Services!"  It has a really positive sound to it, it says what we do, where we do it, and I also Loved the word Greater...thinking we could be greater--not better than anyone else, but greater with our vision than any run-of-the mill type of start-up, more than just ordinary (never liked ordinary) with how we do our "business."  There were only five of us in 1992 when we were just getting started--Deb, Barb Yelle, Rob, Mary, myself, and in May of that year we also hired Steve Michaud.  So, not too many of us in that first little rowboat.  I took out a home loan to get the business started. Deb worked as our administrative assistant, writing policies and creating forms, etc., and pampered and fed us.  And all the rest of us worked our butts off doing Family Based services.  It was a scary, wonderful, humorous, meaningful experience, and we met every Friday to support each other, hold each other up, and still help our clients.  In January 1993 almost all of the crew we had left behind at the agency we used to work at joined the budding new GMFS business.  Our little row boat became a pontoon with about 18 more people on it.  And from there the little boat has grown to 150+ of you!  Is that a yacht?  A Cruise Liner?

There's much more to say, of course, but this is at least the primal beginning.  There have been soooo many people that have stayed with it and nurtured the Dream since those early days when we sat on "the old front porch" of our little home in Willmar, MN.  Many of them are  now going on 10 and 15 and 20+ years.  Sometimes we couldn't make payroll and we all just waited until I had enough to pay everyone.  Sometimes we ran out of money, and everyone pitched in.  When we unaffiliated (1997) with a mental health center we had joined, I went to the banker to restart the business again with a bunch of piles of 100 dollar bills, boat titles, land titles, lien on the ole' Willmar home again, collateral values on cars, etc., which I spread out all over his desk.  His memorable words were:  "I've never seen this before!  It is just how United Airlines started."  He gave us the start-up loan.  A few of the other names are Pam Munson, Jaci Finneman, Tom Belcher, Lois Wesbur, and Wendell Veurink--again, this list goes on.  Without all these Pioneers, this agency would be Nothing!  Not even a wrinkle in time.  You don't do this because one person has all the great ideas or magic, it is done because we hired good people, and they became the "Miracle Workers" ...performing minor and major miracles every day.  That is where the magic is.  It is never the dream of one man, it is those who believed somewhere in the deeper reaches of the brain, "We've always thought this was possible, so yes!  Let's do it and build a dream!"