Retiring Dr. Donald Carpenter credited for helping thousands

Sunday , November 19, 2017 - 5:00 AM

JANAE FRANCIS, Standard-Examiner Staff

OGDEN — Dr. Donald Carpenter is one man whose quiet efforts are credited with directly and indirectly changing enough people’s lives to roughly populate the city.

Carpenter, 74, is retiring after 15 years as director of the Ogden-Weber Community Action Partnership that followed six years as a board member and chairman.

Previously, he served for 32 years as a social work professor and department chairman at Weber State University.  

“In his time here, I would say he’s had a positive impact on well over 100,000 people because of his leadership,” said Jesse Garcia, Circles coordinator and former board member and Ogden City councilman. 

“He had his thumbprint on each and every program,” said Stephen Thompson, OWCAP board chairman. “He was the guy in the background, a guiding light.”

All programs now at the non-profit that provide services for low-income families and individuals in Central Ogden and at the Marshall White Community Center have Carpenter to thank for their existence, officials said.

He is credited with saving both. 

Starting in 1998 and continuing until Carpenter took over as director, OWCAP was in danger of losing its funding, officials said.

By testifying in a Denver court and taking other measures to get the program’s credentials reinstated, Carpenter was able to save the agency, he and others said.

“He and that board put their heads together and their noses to the grindstone and kept us going,” Thompson said. 

Since Carpenter took over as director, there have been no significant findings on any reviews of the program, Thompson said. “He did an excellent job of leading.”

“When I came in 2002, we were facing a major crisis,” Carpenter said. “I was able to pull the agency through. We got our stability back and we’ve done well ever since.” 

“As a result of his leadership, we’ve become a solid agency,” said Rev. Charles Petty of Ogden’s Second Baptist Church, a member of the agency’s board of directors. He referred to Carpenter as a North Star.

Without his leadership, about 13,000 children would not have benefited from Head Start programs in Ogden, Garcia said.

RELATED: 25 Days of Giving: OWCAP Head Start gives kids direction

Among myriad other programs at OWCAP are Early Head Start, Circles, employment assistance, emergency food assistance, financial literacy and Volunteer Income Tax Assistance.

The agency also offers scholarships for adult high school diploma and GED programs and Weber School District adult education and English as a Second Language classes.

“OWCAP offers services to not only the children, but to the parents, the whole family,” Garcia said.

“He has definitely focused on the mission of the agency,” Petty said. “He has helped sustain those people at poverty level and helped them to be self-sustaining.”

The Marshall White Center faced possible closure nine years ago when Ogden City officials no longer wanted to fund it, Garcia said.

The partnership took the center under its umbrella in 2009 and kept it going until it was again taken over the by city in 2015.

RELATED: Ogden City reclaims management of the Marshall White Center

Among Carpenter’s other accomplishments include backing upgrades to Graham Court, a low-income wheelchair accessible housing unit near OWCAP and Ogden Senior Villa, a central Ogden low-income housing facility.

“We were able to get grants for both of them,” Carpenter said.

A former social worker of the year for the State of Utah, Carpenter also served as chairman of the regional Head Start association.

“I have always been a champion for poor people, people at risk and people who were disenfranchised,” Carpenter said.

Adrienne Zubiller, executive secretary of the program’s board of directors, said Carpenter accomplished much by expecting much.

“He knows what he wants to happen. He gives direction and expects his staff to follow through,” Zubiller said. “Sometimes he's had to get tough to get the work accomplished.”

She also pointed to a kind and gentle side to Carpenter. “His follow-through is gracious even when he's disappointed with the outcome,” Zubiller said.

“Due to him, we are one of the top (Community Action Partnership) agencies in the USA,” she said. “His advice is sought by people throughout America.”

Connie House, a Head Start program manager, said the OWCAP’s move from the bottom to a top ranking was not accidental.

“When he came in as director, he came with a caring heart,” House said. “He had just saved the agency. He knew the staff was fragile. It was good to work with someone who cared about the people as well as the families.”

Carpenter believes the longevity of his management team — three women, all with 16 years or more at the agency — testifies to the dedication of those he will leave behind.

The managers named his vision for taking programs to schools to eliminate the need for people with financial burdens to have to travel and his programs to pay for higher education for those who work in OWCAP early childhood programs as key ways he has accelerated life changes.

Jill Oberndorfer, OWCAP community service block grant manager, said Carpenter empowered his staff to truly see the needs of those they serve and meet them, even if it meant buying shoes or sheers people needed in order to go to work.

“Sometimes things that seem small to some people are huge barriers to others,” Oberndorfer said. 

The managers said Carpenter’s replacement will have to accomplish much to fill his shoes.

You may reach reporter JaNae Francis at jfrancis@standard.net or 801-625-4228. Follow her on Twitter at @JaNaeFrancisSE or like her on Facebook at facebook.com/SEJaNaeFrancis.

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