Curt Vodehnal, Residential Manager at Kruse
Growing up in Burwell, Nebraska, Curt Vodehnal had his sights set on a career in acting.
Although he didn’t make it to center stage or the movie screen, each day as Residential Manager at Kruse Group Home, Vodehnal uses his outgoing personality and sense of humor to help children create better lives for themselves.
“As a junior in college, I decided to go into Human Services, Counseling and Psychology,” Vodehnal explained. “I decided that was the way I wanted to affect peoples’ lives.”
“Even in my teenage years, my friends used to come and talk to me about things. I had several of them tell me later in life, ‘you are the one we had to talk to get through things.’”
Vodehnal said being someone people could trust gave him the courage to broaden his horizons in the Human Services field. For 12 years, he has used his innate gifts at Epworth Village, Inc.
“In 1993, I was working as a Life Skills Trainer at Stevens Cottage. At that time, we had just two units. I did that for awhile and then Epworth had the distinction of opening the first, Treatment Group Home in Nebraska. In 1999, Kruse, a Traditional Group Home opened in Grand Island,” he said.
In a society where workers are moving from job to job more frequently, Vodehnal said Epworth Village, Inc. feels like home. “First, I come to work each day because of the children and secondly I come because I’ve known many of the employees here for a long time. It really is the Epworth Village Family. I work with great people who really care about each other. That is what keeps me coming back.”
Vodehnal said he enjoys the progress made each day by the clients he serves. “The children have to be able to function in the community. The idea is for them to be in public school and out doing community service. At Kruse, we don’t take the high-risk children or those that are extremely aggressive and threatening. A lot of times, children do start out here and then we realize they need a higher level of care within the Epworth Village, Inc. continuum of care. The ultimate goal is to have the child either return to their family or go into foster care. Some are also old enough to go into independent living when they leave.”
“The more structure we provide, the better off we are,” Vodehnal said, adding that children’s days are spent going to school and doing chores as well as community service work. They also have some free time, recreation and hobby periods of the day. And, we take outings. The day concludes with dinner, study skills time and Goal Review Group.
Through the years, as society has changed, Curt said the effects on children’s behavior are becoming more apparent.
“It seems we have more children who are getting tougher and tougher. The core issue is the home life and family problems that may stem from societal and economic pressures,” he said.
Vodehnal believes it is everyone’s responsibility to help strengthen families, “If communities are not raising their children then the children believe they can do whatever they want and not be responsible for their actions.”
He said the reward is when children break negative patterns in small and large ways.
“You have to measure success one child at a time. For some children, if they stay out of trouble for a month that is a start. The goal is to train them to make good choices for a lifetime. We’re always really proud when the children get jobs in the community and they have progress after the schooling is complete. For example, we have a young man who is in the service and is overseas in Africa. You never know where life is going to take them. But, it’s always great to hear about their success outside of Epworth Village,” he said.
In the future, Vodehnal hopes to continue being part of the vision at Epworth Village, Inc. to grow and change to serve families. He said the main thing is to continue to “listen to youth.”
“What we do is change lives and it takes a lot of hard work. We teach young men that they don’t have to live the way they have been living. You hope from ‘roots to wings’ that you have planted a seed.”