Angela Dikes feels like she’s been executive director of the Bald Ridge Lodge for two years, not two months.
Though Dikes only took over the position in January after former executive director Heidi Snarey retired, she’s already faced how to lead a group home for at-risk teenage boys during the coronavirus pandemic and consider the implications of new state and federal legislation for the institution.
“It’s been trial by fire,” Dikes said.
But Dikes likes a challenge. That’s what she told the board during interviews for the position.
For instance, when schools closed amid the coronavirus outbreak, Dikes formulated a plan to help the boys with their schoolwork. The first day was rough, Dikes said, so she adjusted. She called a house meeting, listened to input from the boys and devised a new schedule that’s worked much better.
“I enjoy solving problems,” Dikes said.
Last July, Dikes had a problem of her own. She and her family had moved to Forsyth County from Texas, where Dikes worked in the social work field for 28 years. Dikes most recently worked at Camp Fire First Texas, a youth development organization, and before that at Big Brothers Big Sisters and various foster care organizations. Dikes now needed a new way to connect with and serve her new community.
When the Bald Ridge Lodge approached Dikes after Thanksgiving, it felt like the perfect match for her background in foster care, administration and current status as a “boymom” (she and her husband have a 15-year-old son).
Bald Ridge Lodge provides counseling, mentoring, support and positive activities for boys ages 12-21 who are referred by the Department of Family and Children Services or local Juvenile Court.
“I just kind of have a passion for helping kids, especially through the tough times,” Dikes said.
Dikes said she was quickly welcomed by the community and was struck by how supportive it is of the Bald Ridge Lodge. Food and activities are dropped off nearly every day, she said, which is especially welcome while schools are closed through the remainder of the school year.
Dikes was also impressed by the organization’s staff, some of whom have worked there almost since the organization opened in 2008.
“Our staff really cares about what they’re doing,” Dikes said. “They see it as a mission.”
That staff is also key for the Bald Ridge Lodge to “take it to the next level,” Dikes said. In January, the Bald Ridge Lodge began implementing the Nurtured Heart Approach (NHA) with its staff, volunteers and community partners to focus on encouraging the boys’ positive attributes instead of simply modifying negative behavior.
That was the focus of the organization’s “Day of Giving” campaign this year. The Bald Ridge Lodge hoped to raise $5,000 to expand the NHA program in its aftercare services, especially for the families of the residents.
“If we can help parents learn that same mindset, when the boys go home, they’ll be able to hopefully maintain in those placements and be able to make that a little more seamless transition,” Dikes said.
Dikes is also trying to help the organization respond after the Family First Prevention Services Act was signed into law in 2018. The new federal law shifts the emphasis away from putting foster youth into group homes, like the Bald Ridge Lodge, and toward helping families in crisis stay together.
“We already want to expand our prevention and aftercare services, which is definitely in line with the Act, but it may also affect the types of kids that may be referred to a facility like ours,” Dikes said. “They may be more difficult. Or we may get a more specialized population that maybe is not ready yet for a home, a more intimate home environment. A group living situation might work better for them.”
Another problem Dikes is eager to solve.