By Patrick Winderl/Havre Daily Newsemail@example.com
Last week marked the end of an era for the HELP Committee and the Boys & Girls Club of the Hi-Line, with the retirement of Robin Morris, the executive director of the organization.
Morris had been with the HELP Committee for 17 years and was largely responsible for the inception of the Boys & Girls Club two years ago.
Thursday was her last day on the job, and later that evening she flew to Columbus, where she and her husband have long planned to retire.
"I'll continue to assist this club and organization as much as I can. This is where my heart is," Morris said Thursday afternoon during an interview in her office at the Boys & Girls Club.
The club was opened in the fall of 2002 in the former Devlin Elementary School building. Morris wrote the grant application that gave the club its start, something she says is among her proudest accomplishments.
The HELP Committee was formed in 1979. Morris, who has a master's degree in counseling and a bachelor's degree in business, was hired by the organization on a part-time basis in December 1987.
"I joined because I was passionate about making a difference in the community I was living in," Morris said, "sometimes at the expense of my family because the job came first."
Initially the HELP Committee focused primarily on alcohol and drug prevention, though its role "has greatly expanded since then," Morris said.
The HELP Committee partnered with Havre Public Schools to encourage youth to make healthy decisions. That has included writing weekly articles that appear on the Health page of the Havre Daily News.
"The partnership we have with our schools here is wonderful," Morris said.
Havre Public Schools Superintendent Kirk Miller lauded Morris for her work.
"She's a great team player and we will miss her," he said. "She was very tenacious in her work, and she has worked very closely with Havre Public Schools on numerous health-related issues, including tobacco prevention and drug and alcohol use prevention."
Morris will be replaced by Krista Solomon, who joined the HELP Committee in 1991. Morris said she is proud to have worked with Solomon for so long and is confident she will do well.
"I don't think she's ever told me no, and sometimes she probably should have," Morris joked.
Leaving Havre, the HELP Committee and the Boys & Girls Club has brought mixed emotions, she said.
"I'm sad to leave it. I love this town. I couldn't have faked it this many years."
Morris said she believes the HELP Committee has been successful at providing a positive influence for young people, adding that her own son's involvement with the group helped to teach him civic responsibility.
"It was a good organization to raise my son in," she said.
Morris' son, Casey McKinney, became involved with the HELP Committee when he was 8 "because McGruff the drug dog was part of our program," Morris said.
As the HELP Committee expanded and grew over the years, Morris' responsibilities often put her behind the scenes. Morris said her sole responsibilities for a long time have been securing funds and technical writing.
"I've gotten to work with many key leaders in this community. It's been great," she said.
Morris said she has been impressed with the level of support people have shown for the HELP Committee and the Boys & Girls Club.
"If there's a solution on the table, they're ready to run with it," she said.
Although she considers her tenure a success, Morris said the journey was not always smooth sailing.
"I think with any organization there are difficult times but the key is to learn from them and then move on," she said. "We've had growing pains, but the important thing is that we kept growing."
Watching the Boys & Girls Club come to fruition was the most rewarding experience Morris had while working for the HELP Committee.
"Some of the kids that started out so unruly and so desperate for attention, to see how they've grown, it's just incredible," she said. "There's no such thing as a throwaway kid."