Advocating for children
Danville’s Wes Mantooth steps in to lead Susie’s Place board in Avon
By Stephanie Dolan
People find what drives their passion through different avenues. Some use past experiences, others turn to something they may have lost and others feel a pull to their calling.
Wes Mantooth has felt a pull to help those less fortunate in whatever capacity possible for the last few years.
On Jan. 1 he became the new board chairman for Avon-based Susie’s Place, a child advocacy center.
The nonprofit conducts forensic interviews of children in a kid-friendly center during the investigation of alleged crimes against children.
Before Susie’s Place existed, several people typically interviewed a child victim, including staff from schools, Department of Child Services, law enforcement and the prosecutor’s office.To reduce the trauma of retelling their stories over and over, Emily Perry created Susie’s Place.
The mission to help children who were victims of child abuse drew Mantooth to start volunteering. He’s served as the board vice chairman for two years and now naturally is stepping into the chairman position.
The Danville resident relishes the opportunity to take part in an organization that helps innocent victims who cannot defend themselves.
“They feel helpless and don’t know who to go to,” he said. “Susie’s Place offers comfort and the opportunity to share their stories and have a safe haven, to have an end to the bad and beginning to the good.”
Outside his volunteering, for 12 years Mantooth has worked in insurance focusing on employee benefits, human capital and risk management consulting.
“The idea initially was for me to come out of school, get some experience and go to work with my dad, Ralph, at Mantooth Insurance,” he said. “But my life kind of took a detour, and I’ve stayed that course since. My dad has always been supportive, and now my brother’s there, too, so it’s always going to be a family business.”
Mantooth, 42, has volunteered with Susie’s Place for the last three years.
“It’s not about self-gratification,” he said. “But it is all about what Susie’s Place has been able to do. Emily Perry, our executive director, started the child abuse prevention program in 2017. In that first year, they were able to educate about 400 children. In the current school year, they were able to educate about 40,000.”
Mantooth said that this exponential growth rate is due to the vision, direction and leadership of Perry who is the Susie’s Place executive director and founder.
“I often think the term visionary is overused, but in this situation Emily truly is a visionary,” he said.
It’s more than the board or Perry. It takes a phenomenal team to make a difference.
“All of our volunteers are supportive of the mission,” Mantooth said. “They give their time and sacrifice time with family. We have an awesome board with a variety of backgrounds that provides for a lot of different perspectives and is a very supportive group.”
Approaching a decade of existence, Perry said Susie’s Place continues to grow thanks to the work of volunteers such as Mantooth.
“I’m just really excited about his enthusiasm for the organization and all the opportunities that are on the horizon for Susie’s Place,” Perry said. “We’re coming up on our 10th anniversary, and we’re looking at what the next 10 years will look like. Wes’ leadership will take us to the next level, and I think we’re coming up on some great momentum with his leadership.”
The married father of two also brings his example of volunteerism home to his family.
“My wife, Stacy, is a huge supporter directly and indirectly,” Mantooth said. “She also gives of her time for fundraising efforts. Susie’s Place is an easy organization to get behind and support given the mission and what their focus is taking care of innocent children. We feel blessed to be part of an organization that does so much in our community in a behind-the-scenes fashion.”
Mantooth also wants his two boys, ages 11 and 14, to see what a difference giving back can make.
“I want them to appreciate what they have and give to others, not in a materialistic way, but to give of their time and their talents and their emotional support,” he said. “I want them to be great friends at all times, to have compassion for others.”
Above all, Mantooth is happy to quietly work in tandem with Susie’s Place as they take care of children behind the scenes of each case that comes through their doors.
“We hear way too often in the media about these situations, these children as innocent victims of abuse,” he said. “Susie’s Place is behind the scenes in the interview process so that the perpetrators can be prosecuted. They want to stay behind the scenes and not bring attention to Susie’s Place. There’s no self-promotion. It’s all about taking care of the children.”
Do you have pets? We have one dog, Maverick. He’s a 1-year-old English Labrador
What’s your favorite TV show? “Pigman”
What’s your favorite movie? “Anchorman”
What do you do to relax? Work outside
Who or what inspires you? My boys. They inspire me to do my best to provide the best opportunities for them.
5 tips for board chairs
Steve Patterson serves as the executive director of the Hendricks County 4-H Fairgrounds & Conference Complex. In 2018 he was named the State Provincial Associations of Fairs Executive of the Year.
Before serving as executive director, Patterson sat on the fair board of directors, including terms as treasurer, president and past president.
In 2005 Patterson served on the Indiana State Fair Commission board of directors. Patterson is also active in his community. Currently he is the board chair for the Danville Chamber of Commerce. He is also on the board of directors and treasurer of Sycamore Services. He serves on the Parade and Princess Committee for the 500 Festival and at the Indianapolis Sports Corporation. We asked Patterson what advice he would give a new board chair:
Listen: Exercise openness to board members’ comments and hear what the community is desiring. The Hendricks County 4-H Fairgrounds hosted small focus groups in 2018 to get the communities’ input.
Delegate: Utilize committees to make decisions and direct the organization. The Indiana Association of Fairs and Hendricks County 4-H Fair have created committees to manage areas. The committees meet monthly and give the boards written reports of the committee meetings, which has reduced board meeting times. Prior to the committees, board members were not being updated, and some meetings lasted four to five hours.
Unite: Coming together is best for any organization. After a decision is made, walk out as one voice and support the outcome. Support each other. Also work together as one to get through your events (such as the fair or the convention). Support one another with decisions and within committees.
Organize: Form a detailed agenda in conjunction with the executive director. Determine tasks that need to be completed in meetings and stick to the items. The Hendricks County 4-H Fair Association gives the board packet with the committee reports. Packets could be 50-60 pages with the reports, so having pages numbered and reflected on the agenda and the packet allows for quick reference of the items being discussed. Time your meetings so board members can attend meetings and events throughout the year.
Compromise: Be willing to change, and do not continue with the status quo. Look for creative ideas for the board and the organization. Be creative to allow for ideas to flow as well. The Indiana Association of Fairs and Hendricks County 4-H Fair Association use idea boards, and board members can use sticky notes to share their opinions with the group. Notes are then collected and summarized for future reference. During meetings, listen to other people’s ideas and be open to change.