Local nonprofit Interfaith-Good Samaritan’s new executive director started Monday, replacing interim director Charles Ksir.
Mike Vercauteren, the new executive director, has a good track record of social work and is interested in the mission of the organization, said Steve Wagner, who works at Interfaith.
“He comes with a long background in social services and he has a college degree in that area, so he knows what he’s doing,” Wagner said.
Vercauteren has a master’s degree in social work from the University of Wyoming and has worked on social programs aimed at curbing substance abuse and preventing suicide. He said he is looking to tackle the nonprofit’s evolving challenges.
“Times are changing all over our country and in Laramie,” Vercauteren said.
“I think needs are changing. And I think that Interfaith is a good, strong organization, and the thing I’d like to do is, obviously, strengthen what we do well and then look to see how we need to adapt to the changing needs of our community and how we can function better.”
Supported by grants and individual donations, Interfaith-Good Samaritan runs a food pantry and provides financial assistance for rent, utilities and other bills to people at risk of homelessness.
“We help families and individuals who are in crisis,” Vercauteren said. “We are Laramie’s safety net.”
The organization also helps homeless people who live in Laramie or who are passing through Laramie.
“We’re kind of an agency of last resort,” Wagner said. “People that are in dire straits and need help, they come to us and we see what we can do to help.”
Before becoming director, Vercauteren volunteered for Interfaith-Good Samaritan. He said he knew many of the people involved with the organization and always valued its work.
“I’ve lived here almost 30 years now, and I think it’s hard not to have some kind of a history with Interfaith,” he said.
Vercauteren’s position was occupied by Tom Martin for 17 years before Martin resigned in February. Martin said he did not want to leave his position and wrote a letter alleging he was told to resign by the organization’s board of directors. Members of the board of directors, including its president Susan Sandeen, said they could not comment on personnel matters.
Ksir served as interim director between Martin’s resigning and Vercauteren’s hiring.
“He was so important in the whole transition,” Vercauteren said. “He just worked tirelessly through the whole transition.”
Ksir said Vercauteren is the right person for the job and he is glad Vercauteren is taking on the responsibilities involved.
“He’s going to be really good at it,” Ksir said. “I think everyone’s looking forward to having him there and the new direction for Interfaith.”
Interfaith-Good Samaritan is one of Laramie’s many charities and nonprofits and Vercauteren said those other organizations — Climb Wyoming and the Laramie Soup Kitchen among them — and the local churches have been incredibly helpful throughout the transition and in helping him take on the role of executive director.
“It’s been a real pleasure to work with the partners,” Vercauteren said. “Laramie is really lucky to have them.”