Kevin Callaghan, a two-time board chair for Damascus Way and former long-time staff and program director, was recently honored at the May board of directors meeting for Damascus Way. After serving on the board as chair for two different tenures, Kevin stepped aside to allow Demetrius Chester to take on the role of board chair. Kevin will continue to advise Damascus Way as a board member going forward. Here are some reflections and words Kevin had to share with us as he looks back on his years of services for Damascus Way and what the future has in store:

My connection with Damascus Way really traces back to Craig Fruen and our friendship in junior high and high school. Craig became a Christian in my college years and started sharing Jesus with me and was very influential in me coming to Christ in 1979.

In 1995, I was in graduate school for clinical social work and looking for a part time job and Craig invited me to join the Damascus Way staff as a case manager. At that time there was only the one Golden Valley facility/program. I had previously been involved in doing jail and prison ministry and was interested in serving the men at DW coming out of prison and jail.

I worked as a case manager for the next two years as I completed my Master of Social Work degree and clinical licensure process as a therapist, and then was offered the full-time role of Program Director.

For the next four years (1997-2001), I served as program director at Golden Valley, developing and expanding many aspects of our program including increasing the bed capacity, program structures, and case management services, staff training and development, etc. As the program grew and revenue increased we were able to bring on three full-time case managers to better support and minister to our residents.

In 2001 I was offered the role of Discipleship and Formation pastor at Woodland Hills Church in St. Paul, and I left Damascus Way as Craig Fruen then returned as Program Director. When Richard Harden retired as Executive Director, Craig moved into that role and wanted to bring fresh energy and additional skills to the Damascus Way board, and he asked if I would join the board, which I was excited to do.

Not long after this, the then board chair decided it was time to move on and I was asked to become board chair. During this time we went through a strategic planning process, SWOT analysis, review of our mission and vision statements and set some new growth and quality-control goals. The Rochester program had already begun with Director Harden and Craig, but Olmsted County wanted us to expand our DOC services there. An arrangement with them and the use of the 2118 facility was approved and Damascus Way began offering residential services there in a number of years ago.

Doug Bodde was then brought on the board in and I felt my term as board chair was coming to an end, and Doug was the obvious candidate to move into that role. I felt led to stay on as a board member. Doug was a key player in the restructuring of the executive director role and the eventual hiring of Tierre Webster as executive director. Carl and Craig, along with the board, worked tirelessly to get us a new, larger facility in Golden Valley, where the program is now housed. Tierre and Doug also worked effectively to expand the board, bringing in more diversity and other needed expertise. Doug was offered a job out of state and resigned from the board, and Tierre and Carl asked me if I would step in as interim board chair again, until the next chair could be identified. I agreed to this role, and during this time the board was further expanded, and we added the Scott County programs, and developed and launched our current Peer Recovery Resources training and services program, and went through another round of strategic planning along with a comprehensive organizational structural analysis and restructure. Under Tierre’s leadership revenue increased and we were able to create and hire several area directors and a senior director as well as begin to bring all staff pay-scales into the target range compatible with other non-profits.

In April of 2024 the board unanimously approved Demetrius Chester to become the next board chair. I am still remining on the board and am happy to now be able to focus more on my areas of passion and training in mental health and discipleship.

Let’s join in celebrating and recognizing Kevin Callaghan for his continued dedication to Damascus Way and for his years of high-level leadership in different settings and contexts!