WINCHESTER, Ind. — James D. Garringer is the fifth director in the 18 months of the Journey Home’s existence at 325 S. Oak St.
He came on board at the facility, which is a veterans homeless shelter serving primarily east central Indiana and west central Ohio, on May 4.
“I remember because it was my grandson’s first birthday,” he said. “I applied for the position in May 2014 when it was announced they wanted someone to be executive director, but I wasn’t hired. One recent Sunday afternoon, the mayor, Steve Croyle, called me and asked if I was still interested in being director. I told him, ‘By all means.’”
The mayor informed Garringer there was going to be a board meeting that Thursday evening.
“I interviewed and they hired me on the spot, and I started the following Monday,” he said. “I have been here seven weeks now and I enjoy every minute of it. I came out of retirement for you, the veterans.”
Does Garringer plans to make any changes at the facility?
“I am just going with my guts as best to take care of business,” he responded. “I know how I’d like to be take care of. We will provide them [the veterans] with as many programs as we can. Most of the veterans who come here have addictions to drug and alcohol and they are homeless. They have been through the rehabilitation program and when that ends, they are dumped back into society. Here, we take them in from the treatment center stage and offer consultation, social skills, help them in building resumes and job search, help them attain housing, get them in on some insurance coverage and set them up for whatever success we can do.”
Garringer, himself a retired veteran, said the facility can hold 14 veterans but now has 11. There were nine when he took over as director.
“Some are court-ordered to be here,” he said. “I have had two success stories since I’ve come here, but it’s not my doing.”
Veterans come to the Journey Home on a six-month contract.
“We establish case management and they may be here a year or a year and a half,” he said. “We try to do everything we can to help them. “Ages range from late 20s to mid-60s. They represent Vietnam veterans up through Afghanistan veterans.”
A 1965 graduate of Lee L. Driver High School in Winchester, he was a member of the U.S. Air Force for 28 before retiring and subsequently went to work for the U.S. Marine Corps as a civilian employee at its headquarters in Quantico, Virginia, retiring from there after 10 years of service.
“I went into the Air Force to stay out of the upcoming draft,” he said “The United States Air Force selected me for special duty, taught me Morse Code, weapons tactics, reconnaissance and classified operations. I was deployed numerous times to Vietnam and other locations, and was even behind enemy lines, but I was officially stationed in the Philippines.”
Garringer, was born in Jay County Hospital in Portland and was raised in the Saratoga area, has more than 40 years experience in food service, business administration, management and customer service.
“I have developed business operations in locations all over the world with emphasis on customer service and profitability,” he said. “I have interacted extensively with foreign dignitaries, VIPs at all levels within the U.S. government to include ambassadors, senators, vice presidents and presidents of the United States. Also, I have supervised operations and employees of various nationalities. While in Okinawa, Japan, I had more than 850 employees under my responsibility. I have extensive experience with advisory committees and boards of directors. I developed and conducted various membership drives in an attempt to increase membership in membership organizations. I am also experienced and well-versed in public speaking as well as communicating established policy to subordinate personnel and customers/patrons/members alike.”
Garringer, who earned an associate’s degree in restaurant operations from Community College of the Air Force in 1985 and a bachelor of science in business administration and management from the University of Alaska, in 1992, is an honor graduate of three different military service schools, 38 various military awards and decorations and is a Certified Military Community Executive.
While serving in the Air Force from 1966-94, he had world-wide assignments and served in and/or visited 33 foreign countries and all 50 United States.
“I was in this field for the first three years,” Garringer recalled. “Then, I cross-trained for business operations with emphasis on restaurants, food and beverage, entertainment and leisure activities. I spent the remaining 25 years managing night clubs, restaurants and leisure activities throughout the world. At the base/installation level, I was responsible for total business operations of budgeting, purchasing and contracting, human resources, cash handling and ensuring operations met Air Force standards as well as profitability goals. During my last assignment, I was selected to be the wing commander’s liaison for leisure activities at all Air Force bases and sites throughout the state of Alaska. I traveled extensively to all locations providing oversight to activities as well as monitoring morale climate and kept command informed of overall status of operations.”
Garringer also served as general manager of the Dayton Convention Center in Ohio from 1994-99. His total responsibility was to manage and supervise operations within the convention center, including security, exhibitions and food operations for meetings, banquets and special events. He also worked closely with the Dayton Chamber of Commerce.
From 1999 to 2007, he was a civilian employee with the U.S. Marine Corps, and that’s when he was in Japan. His duties there were much like the Air Force.
“I began duties at Marine Corps installation level and was responsible for total business operations of night clubs and restaurants,” he said. “I oversaw construction of a $22 million nightclub. Then, I developed an operational plan, staffed it and opened it in 2001. With promotions, my responsibilities increased significantly. I had total responsibility to operate 19 businesses (night clubs and restaurants) on several different Marine Corps camps on the island of Okinawa. These operations produced annual income exceeding $30 million. I opened the first two Starbucks in the Marine Corps.”
It was then time for him to retire another time, he felt, especially when he began having his share of health issues.
“I had a heart attack in 2008 and had open heart surgery in 2009 and did not convalesce well,” he said. “We moved back to Indiana. I had major cancer surgery in 2o01 and an extensive hernia surgery in 2012. One of my bypasses failed last October, I had a pacemaker put in and now I have congestive heart failure.
Garringer and wife Vicki, whom he met in the Philippines have been married for 48 years. They have four children, one of whom is adopted, as well as 11 grandchildren and one great-grandchild, scattered from Los Angeles to Delaware.
The Journey Home, he said, is totally self-sufficient.
“We receive no money from the town, county or government,” he said. “We accept donations for food and cash. Local community is supportive with volunteers and they frequently bring food in. We’re always in need toilet paper, personal hygiene items like soaps, shampoos and hand towels. I encourage anybody who wants to donate to call us and find out our needs. We are happy to work with churches and veterans organizations.”
He went on, “Another need we have is for someone to come out and provide training for my guys to plan, prepare and cook their meals and clean up…maybe a sorority or church group. Pick a date on the calendar and call us.”
He said it takes $200,000 a year to keep this facility open.
“It’s a big challenge when there is no steady stream of income,” Garringer said.
He said to make a donation, send it to: Community Foundation of Randolph County Inc., 765-584-9077 or visit www.randolphcountyfoundation.org. Or, call Garringer at 765-595-8297 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.