Outreach asks Thwing to retire

Published 12:45 am Friday, December 3, 2010

Thermal Belt Outreach Ministry’s (TBOM) board of directors asked Executive Director Eloise Thwing to resign last week.
The Outreach board of directors sent a press release to the Bulletin saying that Thwing announced her retirement last week after 20 years of service, but Thwing said it was not her choice to retire.
The TBOM board of directors, meanwhile, has announced the new hire of Carol Newman, who began in a newly created chief operating officer (COO) position on Dec. 1. Newton will succeed Thwing as executive director on Jan. 1, according to the press release (see release pg. 6).
Thwing, 90, has been the executive director since Outreach’s inception and was part of the original group of women from area churches who envisioned the organization. She is referred to by community members as the founder of Outreach, but Thwing has never accepted sole credit for the title.
In February, the organization will celebrate 20 years of helping Polk residents in need of assistance.
Board of director members met with the Bulletin on Dec. 1 and said Thwing’s retirement was necessary for both Thwing and Outreach.
“It’s agonizing for us,” said board member Joe Epley. “What was done was trying to do what’s best for Eloise and the community. The staff has accepted the decision and of course, they all love Eloise as we do.”
Thwing said before the Nov. 23 Outreach board of director’s meeting, she was taken to the Columbus Methodist Church, where she was greeted by board of director president Diana Winkler, vice-president Dorcas Epley and secretary/treasurer Bob Morgan, all members of the executive committee.
Thwing said she was then told the board had hired a COO who was to begin work on Dec.1. The board also informed her that her last day of employment would be Dec. 31. Thwing said she was offered a severance package, but declined.
The committee then took Thwing to the board of director’s meeting being held at Stearns Education Center, where Minkler made an announcement to the board that Thwing was retiring, Thwing said this week.
Thwing has been placed on medical leave by her doctor since the announcement and said she is not sure she will be able to return to Outreach by the Dec. 31 retirement date.
Thwing said she does not remember what precise terms were discussed at the board meeting because she was in such shock at what the executive committee had just done. She admits she probably agreed to accept the retirement, in an effort to present herself in a professional manner, and because of her love of Outreach.
Thwing said part of her shock over the situation is the result of a discussion she had with the board in July of this year, when she was told the board was seeking grants to add a COO position, but that the new position would be directed by Thwing and wouldn’t be a replacement.
“I want the community to know how much I still love them and thank them for their support over the last 20 years,” Thwing said. “TBOM would not exist today without their support. I’d especially like to thank all the volunteers and staff who have supported me over the years.”
Thwing said she has no plans for the future as TBOM has been her life since the death of her husband, Richard Thwing, 19 years ago. Richard Thwing was also instrumental in the creation of Outreach.
Thwing said she was not involved in the interviewing process for a new director and was not told until Nov. 23 that the board had hired a replacement.
“I feel I was not given the respect I deserved,” Thwing said.
Epley and Morgan said this week that no one can help but admire Thwing for all she has done. They said she instilled very good policies at Outreach. They said the board is accountable for operations of the 501(C)(3) organization and the decision was best for everyone involved.
“You can’t help but admire all Eloise has done,” Epley said. “She took an idea and formed it into an organization to help her neighbors. Nobody questions Eloise’s love and care to help those in need.
“If a tenth of the people in the world had as much compassion as she has the world would be a much better place.”
On Nov. 4, 2009, the Bulletin ran a press release titled, “Thwing gets vote of confidence from Outreach board.” Earlier last year, Thwing had released a statement saying  some members of the board were pushing her to retire. Her statement followed an adversitement seeking a new executive director.
Thwing said then she did not intend to retire and called on the community for support of the Outreach mission to provide basic needs such as food, utilities, fuel, transportation, prescriptions, affordable housing, dental service and access to health care to those in need in Polk County.
The board’s 2009 press release regarding giving Thwing its vote of confidence said,
“At its recent meeting, the board of directors of Thermal Belt Outreach reorganized itself to be more effective in its oversight of the organization that serves thousands of Polk County’s poor.
In making the changes, the board also gave Ms. Eloise Thwing, its executive director and founder, a vote of confidence and appreciation. Speaking on behalf of the board, chairman Frank Ortiz, said after the unanimous vote, ‘When Ms. Thwing saw some 18 years ago that far too many Polk County residents were living below the poverty line, she created the Thermal Belt Outreach, a community based program to make a difference in people’s lives.
‘Since its inception, the Thermal Belt Outreach has helped approximately 68,000 people, many on a repeat basis. Today, more than 200 children here in Polk County, who would otherwise leave their classrooms on Friday and not have anything to eat until Monday, have their nutrition provided through the Feed-A-Kid program which she created.
‘While serving as our executive director, Mrs. Thwing has reached out with creative ways to churches, benevolent organizations and caring people to bring our community together to help the hungry children and elderly poor. And it has been done without any government funds. During the past year, when the down economy and job losses caused even greater misery for many families, it also created more difficult challenges for the community and Outreach. Despite the hard times, she continued to work diligently to accomplish the Outreach mission.
‘There would be many more children going to bed hungry tonight and families living in the cold if it were not for the compassionate assistance made possible by the Outreach staff, volunteers and donors, all working under Ms. Thwing’s dedicated leadership. She deserves the county’s unending appreciation.’”

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