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STAFF SWITCH UP: Casey Wray, left, is succeeding Kevin Killian as president and CEO of Good Samaritan Boys Ranch.
SBJ photo by Jessica Rosa
STAFF SWITCH UP: Casey Wray, left, is succeeding Kevin Killian as president and CEO of Good Samaritan Boys Ranch.

Good Samaritan Boys Ranch changes guard

Longtime CEO moves over to run the nonprofit’s foundation

Posted online

Leadership at the Good Samaritan Boys Ranch is poised to change in the new year.

Effective Jan. 1, longtime President and CEO Kevin Killian is scheduled to become the first executive director of The Good Samaritan Boys Ranch Foundation. Casey Wray, the nonprofit’s vice president of operations, will succeed Killian at the ranch providing a home and education for abused, abandoned and neglected children.

Both officials have extensive experience at the 60-year-old nonprofit, with Killian leading the Brighton-based ranch for 26 years, while Wray came on board 17 years ago.

“It’s been a really nice hand off where you’re not having to do a search for a CEO for someone completely outside the organization,” Wray said.

The foundation is only 2 years old, established in July 2017 as its own 501(c)(3) for separation from the ranch, Killian said, to potentially raise funds for other organizations. But the succession planning had been five years in the making, officials say.

For the foundation, Killian will lead fundraising and facility needs, while Wray will manage the ranch’s operations and programming for children.

“The foundation is a natural fit because he can help us continue to have sustainability moving forward and I can come in and work on some of the changing landscape and changing programs,” Wray said. “I can then piggyback off of the relationships he’s built over the years.”

Aside from the 180-acre ranch in Brighton, the nonprofit also provides services at its Footsteps Transitional Living campuses in Springfield and Willard, which serves females exclusively. Officials this month plan to open a $1.6 million housing center in Springfield for children transitioning out of foster care.

Low-key rollout
With well over two decades under his belt, Killian has more longevity in a nonprofit leadership role than almost anyone in the Ozarks. Bonnie Keller has slightly more experience at 28 years, having served as the president and CEO of Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Ozarks Inc. since 1991, according to Springfield Business Journal archives. Convoy of Hope co-founder and President Hal Donaldson has also been a fixture in nonprofit leadership, as he’s been at the helm for 25 years.

In 1993, Killian came to Good Samaritan from what was then named Boys & Girls Town of Missouri – now Great Circle.

When he arrived, Killian said the organization was struggling financially. The operating budget was at $535,000 per year. This year’s budget is approximately $7.8 million and it’s projected to reach over $8 million in 2020. Staff size has grown over the 26 years to 125 from 17. More than 120 kids are served by the nonprofit, he said, up from about 20 in 1993.

Killian credits the staff and a supportive community for his longevity with the nonprofit.

“They are really the backbone and the reason that the organization is successful,” he said. “Once I got here, there’s never been any place that I’d rather be or I’ve looked to go, quite frankly.”

Still, maintaining the CEO role and being in charge of fundraising for the foundation wasn’t something he or Wray thought was sustainable. It’s been a low-key rollout for the foundation, Killian said, as he hasn’t been able to shift much attention while keeping his eye on the ranch and its programs.

Killian said he’s been able to work with Wray over the past several years to get him familiar with the daily operations at the ranch.

Located 14 miles north of Springfield, the ranch includes on-grounds schooling, individual and family therapy, and recreational activities, according to the Good Samaritan website.

Setting the transition for the start of the year seemed to be the right time for a change, Killian added.

“That will free me up to actually start putting time into the foundation, go out and do more face-to-face and one-on-one contacts with a lot of our donor base,” Killian said, adding he will work out of office space at the newly constructed Springfield housing center.

Building a foundation
In its fiscal 2017 IRS 990 tax form, Good Samaritan recorded total contributions of $1.17 million – an amount steady the past couple of years, Killian said.

He projects growing next year to $1.5 million-$2 million.

Roughly $253,000 of the organization’s fiscal ’17 contributions – nearly 22% – came from government grants, according to IRS records.

Killian said boosting other funding sources is a way to avoid overreliance on the government for funding.

“Over the years, we’ve been very fortunate to have really good supporters,” he said. “But you never know with state funding or federal funding. As we all know, that could go tomorrow. “If it does, what’s going to happen to these kids?”

Currently, the foundation is only designated for the support of Good Samaritan Boys Ranch. But Killian said it has the ability to offer future support for an offshoot program or cause outside the ranch.

“Service to any kid, anytime, anywhere,” Wray said. “That’s how I like to view the foundation.”

One challenge facing Wray is the increasing minimum wage. Hourly employment costs will rise Jan. 1 to $9.45 from its current $8.60 level. In 2018, voters approved increasing a $7.85 hourly rate up to $12 per hour, with step increases of 85 cents a year until 2023.

Wray said roughly $250,000 in additional wages, a 10% increase, are expected to be paid out next year. By 2023, he said the employee costs likely will grow by $800,000-$900,000.

“We know costs will continue to rise significantly to do what we do,” he said. “If we don’t have a viable fundraising arm or entity supporting us, we’re in trouble.”

With the state’s current low unemployment level at 3.1% in October, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Wray said attracting staff to work for the nonprofit is another challenge.

Keeping them employed isn’t easy either, he added. The nonprofit employs around 90 caregivers.

“It’s not an easy job,” he said of helping children at the ranch. “It can be very daunting.”

But he added, “The true north remains helping kids and families in the state of Missouri.”

Web Editor Geoff Pickle contributed.

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