Jan. 8, 2014 —
Controversy surrounding Smithwick’s decision to hire gay employees caused a stir in the Christian-based organization that aids abused, neglected and developmentally challenged children, earning him a vote of no confidence at the Kentucky Baptist Convention’s Annual Meeting in Paducah on Nov. 12.
Two weeks later, the KBC appointed Suttles to temporarily head the agency at a special called trustee meeting Nov. 26.
Suttles was officially introduced to the KBC’s Mission Board, which promoted him from regional advancement director at the Danville campus to presidential status at headquarters near Louisville.
Suttles, a Morehead State University grad, is boldly taking the position, while faced with the task of clearing the controversies left by Smithwick.
After three weeks in the position, Suttles said, “I focus on the kids. I know if I don’t keep my eye on the ball, then kids will suffer.”
Growing up in Olive Hill has taught him many lessons applicable to his job with children’s services, bringing small-town warmth to suffering children in larger cities, he said.
“That was neat for me to go through because kids at Sunrise have never experienced any of that,” he said. “I think looking back at those days in Olive Hill, I feel I’m grounded because of the good many people who made a difference in my life.”
He said he grew up in a single-parent home in Carter County, but never felt lack of support or love from the community.
“There was so much love and support and so many neighbors around me,” he said. “Everyone looked after everyone else. It touched me at an early age. I knew I wanted to do something to give that same kind of environment to kids when I grew up.”
While enrolled at MSU, Suttles began graduate work, studying political science, history and social work. At one point, he said he thought he was going to work as a lawyer.
But before he could finish at Morehead, he felt the need to return to his home in Danville to help his wife with their adopted son, Matthew, who was diagnosed with Aspergers syndrome.
Suttles told the Western Recorder, a Kentucky Baptist newsjournal, he and his wife struggled at first to give the boy the type of care he needed in dealing with past abuse and developmental delays.
He said the types of personal obstacles he faced with his family are part of what brought him to Sunrise.
“I want to take this organization and I want to make it better because my Matthew is a Sunrise kid,” he told the Western Recorder.
Suttles has worked his way up through various jobs in social services, beginning with Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Bluegrass in Lexington, with positions as case support manager, regional director, director of development and chief executive officer.
After being with BBBS for 25 years, he joined the Sunrise staff in Mount Washington, just outside Louisville, working as the eastern region advancement director until becoming the current interim president.
Sunrise has eight residential-treatment facilities for boys and girls in Kentucky: Morehead, Dixon, Elizabethtown (2), Paducah, Bronston, Hopkinsville and Mount Washington.
Other services include foster care, foster to adopt, community-based counseling, independent living and psychiatric residential care.
For more information about Sunrise, visit sunrise.org or call (502) 538-1000.
LANA BELLAMY can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2653.