Bancroft, the Haddonfield nonprofit that provides group homes and outpatient services for 1,500 people with autism, brain injuries, and developmental disabilities, had come perilously close to closing when Toni Pergolin, 50, chief executive officer, was hired in 2004.
These days, Bancroft is on more solid financial footing and is outgrowing its Haddonfield campus. Whether Bancroft will move and what will happen to its campus is unresolved, and controversial.
Question: So, is it still an open question - whether Bancroft stays or goes?
Answer: Our preference is to go - not because we want to leave Haddonfield. We love the community part of it.
Q: So what's the matter?
A: We've been upgrading over the years [to] modern facilities. The last is the one we are sitting in [in Haddonfield]. We have a school built for 100 people, and there are 200 here.
Q: Is it overcrowding, or are there other issues?
A: Modern facilities improve the care we can provide. The older facilities have skinny doorways, kitchens that you could barely fit in. People with disabilities can't get through a door like that themselves. They can't cook in [those] kitchens. [In Bancroft's renovated group homes and facilities], there are wide doorways, so they can get through them themselves. The kitchens have countertops that they can use in a wheelchair, so they can learn to cook for themselves.
Q: In January, Haddonfield residents voted not to buy your land to expand the high school, among other uses. Now what?
A: [Camden] county has expressed interest. We're looking at where we could move to. At the end of the day, our goal is to modernize, whether it's here or somewhere else.
Q: You are one of Camden County's biggest employers with 2,200 on staff. What's your turnover?
A: We're at 28 percent.
Q: How does that compare with your industry?
A: It's about [the same]. We hire 500 people a year and 500 people a year leave. You are gone in the first year, or you're here for 15 or 30.
Q: Most of those who leave are direct caregivers. Who has the toughest job - them or you?
A: They have a really hard job. I run the place, but I don't do what these people do. I don't make the lives of people that we serve better. They do. That inspires me. It really does.
Q: Did you reach that conclusion from your periodic visits to group homes?
A: I've had dinner there and it's eye-opening. While I sit at the table and watch, the staff has to cook the dinner, serve the dinner, and deal with the people who don't want the dinner. My kids say, "I don't like this." The [group-home residents] may turn the plate upside down, turn the water upside down, turn their chairs upside down, and the staff just keeps going.
Q: Speaking of dinner - what's your biggest food weakness?
A: I love a Primos hoagie. That's my favorite. My favorite martini is a Cosmopolitan and I like red wine. I don't want to act like I'm a healthy eater, because I'm not.
Q: And speaking of leadership, what's your big flaw as a boss?
A: How should I say this? Not everybody wants to work for me.
Q: Why is that?
A: I'm impatient. But honestly, I think it's part of my job. Results are because someone's impatient for results. That's my rationalization, anyway.
Q: How about at home?
A: I'm very anal about my house being clean. I have a cleaning lady, but the night before the cleaning lady comes is the craziest night, because I make everyone clean.
Q: How do you enforce that on your two sons?
A: As a working mother, there are some battles you just have to give up. I can't make myself crazy about [them] making the bed.
Q: What about your bed?
A: Every morning I make it and put all the pillows on and it's all matchy, matchy, perfect.
chief executive officer, Bancroft Neurohealth.
Family: Husband, John; children, Stephen, 19; Tim, 16.
Diplomas: Penn State, accounting; St. Joseph's University, master's, health administration.
Resumé: Financial jobs at the University
of Pennsylvania Health System, including CFO, Pennsylvania Hospital.
Real name: Antoinette, after grandparents Antoinette and Anthony.
Business: Residential and outpatient services for the developmentally
disabled, autistic, and brain-injured.
Revenues: $97 million.
in Delaware, Pennsylvania,
Clients: 1,605 total, 1,030 adults 575 children. Includes 575 residents. EndText
Toni Pergolin on managing in a crisis.