MICHIGAN CITY – Bill Trowbridge oversaw Paladin’s growth from a small struggling developmental disability center in Michigan City to a comprehensive human services organization serving thousands of clients and families across Northwest Indiana.
Wendy Rae Englander was the inspiration for the mission of Imagination Station, a Paladin partner organization dedicated to improving family and early childhood experiences.
And in the same week that Trowbridge announced he was leaving, a lasting tribute to Wendy was officially unveiled.
Trowbridge will be stepping down as president and CEO of the charitable non-profit which serves children, seniors, and persons with developmental disabilities.
"After seven years at Paladin, I'm taking on a new role as CEO at Regional Health Systems," he said in a Facebook post.
"It's extraordinarily difficult to leave an organization I love so much, but also exciting to start a new venture at an organization that impacts thousands in the community through mental health services, primary care clinics, head start programming, and other social services."
One of his final duties as CEO was taking part in the dedication of the Imagination Station Child Development Center in honor of Englander.
Wendy was the sister of Dr. Janice Katz – founder of Imagination Station – and the "inspiration for Imagination Station's mission – to improve the quality and accessibility of childcare for the community and increase public awareness for the importance of quality early childhood experiences," according to spokeswoman Erin Mooneyhan.
"Wendy encouraged the organization to fulfill the developmental potential of all children and families."
She was born with Down Syndrome and at the time of her birth, "there wasn't a lot of information available regarding her disability and how it affected her development," Mooneyhan said.
Katz "credits her passion for child development and her drive to become a clinical psychologist specializing in supporting children and their families to her relationship with her sister," according to Mooneyhan.
Wendy passed away on March 6, 2019. According to her obituary, she was "a sparkling ray of sunshine in a world full of rainbows, who brought joy and humor to all whose lives she touched. Full of warmth and compassion, she raised the spirits of everyone who crossed her path. Her beautiful soul will be missed each and every day."
Like Wendy, Trowbridge "meant everything" to Paladin, according to Mike Breakey, chairman of the board.
“Bill has had an enormously successful tenure as CEO," he said. "As the architect of the strategy to develop strategic partnerships and pursue mergers/acquisitions, he has completely transformed Paladin and placed us in an incredibly strong position.”
During Trowbridge’s tenure, Paladin grew from a $1.7 million operating budget with 56 employees, to a nearly $15 million organization with over 400 staff serving thousands daily, Breakey said.
A "tireless proponent of partnerships and collaborations," Trowbridge drove the consolidation of organizations such as Michiana Resources, Parents & Friends, the La Porte County Council on Aging, and the Child Care Consortium – all of which now make up Paladin, according to Breakey.
Trowbridge said he is particularly proud of the acquisition of the Council on Aging in 2014, and the acquiring of disability services in Lake County from a for-profit company in 2018. In both cases, the services were in jeopardy of closing down.
By stepping in, Paladin ensured a transportation system would continue providing tens of thousands medically necessary rides for the elderly in La Porte County, and hundreds of persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities would have a day service program available in Lake County, he said.
Although Trowbridge has been the face of Paladin for several years, he's confident of leaving it in good hands.
“Paladin is tremendously fortunate to have a supportive board and a talented senior staff that is ready for the challenges that face our industry,” he said. “Paladin would not be anywhere near its current position without the contributions of the leadership team who have always ensured we pursue our mission in a fiscally responsible way and with zealous focus on quality of services.”
He will be succeeded by Kimberly Latchford, currently Paladin’s vice president for participant services, who will serve as interim president until a permanent replacement is found.
“Kim has served Paladin for over 23 years in various capacities," Trowbridge said. "She is an amazing advocate for persons with developmental disabilities and an accomplished leader – I can think of no one I trust more to lead Paladin through this transition.”
Trowbridge will continue serving those with medical needs as CEO of Regional Health Systems – an $88 million human services corporation based in Merrillville and comprised of affiliated organizations including Regional Mental Health Center, Geminus Corporation and Lake Park Residential Care.