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New era at Old Mill Center
Andy Cripe | Gazette-Times Old Mill Center for Children and Families new Executive Director Steve Golston and Director of Development Bev Larson are shown during an interview with the Gazette-Times on Thursday afternoon. (Andy Cripe/Gazette-Times)

For the past year, Bev Larson quietly searched for someone to succeed her as director of the Old Mill Center for Children and Families. She co-founded the nonprofit organization in 1977 to help provide a of range of counseling and treatment programs focused on mental health, child abuse and parenting.

But at age 65, and suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, Larson knew it was time to ease her workload leading a center that serves about 1,400 children and families each year. She found such a person.

Steve Golston of Philomath had worked for Oregon Research Institute in Eugene for 10 years. On Sept. 1, he will  officially started as the director of the Old Mill Center.

“I wanted someone who would be passionate about the position,” Larson said. “Not someone who would treat it as just a job. Steve’s passion is helping people.”

The timing of the transition was ideal for Golston, too. In 2009, his family moved from Eugene to Philomath, where his wife, Cindy, is principal at Philomath Elementary School. He was looking to cut down his commute to Eugene.

“Moving here allowed me to get to know Bev,” Golston said. “When this job came open, things fell into place.”

Golston heard about the Old Mill Center more than a decade ago while living in California. Ever since then, he said the center intrigued him because of its reputation for providing direct service to at-risk children and families.

Golston’s arrival enabled Larson to become the Old Mill Center’s director of development. She plans use her connections with the Corvallis community to increase the center’s visibility and fundraising.

Golston and Larson agree that the biggest challenge facing the Old Mill is keeping an adequate level of funding during a time when demand for social services and programs has increased while contributions to nonprofit organizations have declined.

In 2009, the Old Mill Center was forced to lay off five workers and trim salaries to balance a 10 percent shortfall. At the time, Larson said she wasn’t sure if the center would be able to maintain its service level.

Larson is confident that she and Golston can help the center expand and offer more services and programs. In fact, the two are working to get the Old Mill Center certified as a Relief Nursery site.

Relief Nursery is a statewide child abuse prevention program for children age 6 and younger. There are 11 Relief Nursery sites in Oregon so far.

“We are going to try to tap into more federal funding,” Golston said. “But we also want to strengthen our local connections, especially at Oregon State (University).”

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