CHHSM Advancing the Healing & Service Ministry of Jesus Christ

Pilgrim Place Leader Helps Peppermint Ridge Plan for the Future

Peppermint Ridge needed strategic help.

The Corona, Calif., ministry provides homes for more than 100 people with developmental disabilities. After a period of rapid growth, it found itself facing changing needs, new government policies and funding cuts. What was a small CHHSM agency to do?

Audrey Turner, executive director at Peppermint Ridge, turned to the CHHSM network for help; specifically, she called Bill Cunitz, president and CEO of Pilgrim Place in nearby Claremont. That move—a small CHHSM ministry turning to a larger one for assistance—is something CHHSM leaders hope to foster.

Recently, Cunitz had led his own team through a planning process, major capital campaign and building project. Also, he had visited Peppermint Ridge several times when he was a regional outreach representative for CHHSM. When Turner asked him to facilitate a daylong planning retreat in February for Peppermint Ridge board and staff members, he agreed. That retreat helped Peppermint Ridge leaders focus their priorities.

“To residents’ families, one of the most important things is knowing their loved one is going to be able to stay at Peppermint Ridge,” says Tracy Mauser, the agency’s director of development. Some residents live there for decades, others for most of their lives.

“It’s very important to us to make sure our internal structure is solid, because we want the people with us to be able to stay with us. That means our physical plant, our staffing, the levels of care we provide, everything related to client care," Mauser says.

Keeping that structure solid had become challenging for Peppermint Ridge in the face of government cutbacks and a changing donor base. The clientele is changing too. In decades past, families brought disabled children to Peppermint Ridge when those children were young. Lately, though, parents are caring for children at home until they reach their 30s and 40s.

State-level policy change also had an impact, says Turner. “California was moving disabled residents from large institutions into neighborhood and community settings," she says. "Some new Peppermint Ridge residents haven’t been in those settings before.”

The retreat Cunitz led got Peppermint Ridge leaders thinking about how such external changes might be impacting them, Turner says. “We did team-building and brainstorming about our issues, and our strengths and weaknesses. We developed a number of tasks to carry out to move us toward a comprehensive strategic plan,” she says.

Mauser adds, “The discussion highlighted talking with the regional center and finding out what they see as the future before we move forward on any plan to expand.” California has regional centers that distribute state funds for people with disabilities. “We realized we need to really talk with them about what the needs are, because they are our major conduit of clients,” Mauser says.

Another result of the retreat: Peppermint Ridge is considering forming an advisory board. It has also seen a surge in volunteer energy, thanks mainly to a board member who joined the retreat.

Cunitz says leading the Peppermint Ridge process will help Pilgrim Place too.

“I don’t think you can work with another organization on strategic planning without reflecting on your own organization,” he says. “Our organizations benefit from the generative thinking that comes from looking at another case study.”

CHHSM is encouraging partnerships like this one via its new small agency initiative, says the Rev. William R. Johnson, CHHSM vice president. “The need that Peppermint Ridge has exemplifies the kind of issues faced by numerous ministries but are especially challenging for smaller ministries,” he says. “A non-competitive spirit of collegial support and collaboration is one of the hallmarks of CHHSM’s community of servant leaders. The sharing of resources and energy among member ministries is one of our strengths.”

If you are interested in sharing your expertise through CHHSM’s small agency initiative, contact Senior Consultant Daniel Pryfogle at 919-460-7069 or