Jesuit Fr. Jeff Putthoff, the voluble and passionate advocate for disadvantaged youth in Camden, N.J., one of the nation’s most violent cities, is moving on from the non-profit he founded 15 years ago as a center for education and training in technology and entrepreneurship that has benefited nearly 3,000 young people.
Putthoff, who has raised millions for the project, Hopeworks ‘N Camden, while guiding it, said in the past year he has begun feeling “a tug” to look at channeling his experience and energy in new directions. His first step away from Hopeworks will be to complete a master’s (it will be his fourth) in organization dynamics, which he will do at the University of Pennsylvania. He said he will continue some connection to Hopeworks through the end of summer as a consultant.
“For 15 years, this has been about the youth of Camden and their determination to learn, develop skills, and improve the city for others,” said Putthoff in a release announcing his departure. “I have accomplished what I set out to do, helping to build a foundation and get the organization accelerating in the right direction, so it’s a good time for me to explore new pursuits.”
Dan Rhoton, a former schoolteacher who has worked as “chief impact officer” for Putthoff for the past three years, has been appointed new executive director.
Hopeworks ‘N Camden became far more than a training center over the past decade and a half, as Putthoff and the staff began to understand the complexities of dealing with the effects of trauma on young people who had grown up amid extreme violence and poverty, and with little experience of the kind of security taken for granted by children in other circumstances. Under Putthoff’s direction, Hopeworks became a trauma-certified facility. Hopeworks “will continue to build upon its trauma-informed care approach to healing in Camden, working with youth to help them create new possibilities,” according to the organization.
Since 2000, nearly 3,000 youths have trained at Hopeworks an dgone on to earn GED (general education diploma), attend and complete college and earn jobs.
More information can be found at www.Hopeworks.org.