“Have you seen our video for Team of the Year?”
Greg Thompson deliberately took a seat in the red pleather chair next to my desk before adding emphatically, “You gotta see it. It’s a homemade rap video. I put it together with the South Point team. It’s ballin.” It was Greg’s first day as State Director of Ohio and he was eager to show off the team’s creative side in the ensuing competition for Team of the Year.
Low-budget with high entertainment value, we watched the video together laughing out loud at each team member’s costumes, nicknames and rapping capabilities (or lack thereof). Hokey as it was, one thing was clear. Greg and his team are passionate about building families and they take winning seriously.
We met Greg in 2005 when he came to Necco fresh out of college and eager to take on a world that had treated him less than kindly. At the time he wasn’t very far removed from his childhood in terms of chronology, and he quickly made an impression through his very difficult personal story and drive to succeed. Commanding the attention and respect of his peers, Greg tucked a couple years’ experience under his belt before moving on to the University of Louisville Law School in 2008.
Ask him about one of his earliest memories, and he’ll tell you the one about his kindergarten drawing of a man wearing a suit and holding a briefcase. “I didn’t want to be a firefighter or police officer, but rather a lawyer,” he says. “It would be many years, though, before I truly understood why.”
Greg’s peers thought he would prove to be an asset to the legal profession too. Collectively, they submitted 47 letters of recommendation on his behalf - a gesture Greg considers the greatest compliment he has ever received. Rather than fight for kids in the courtroom, Greg decided instead to return to Necco to fight alongside them using his legal expertise to become one of the toughest of advocates.
We like to think we’ve had a hand in raising Greg, from a 22-year old case manager to the leader he is today. If you were to ask Greg, he would likely agree with you. “This isn’t just a company for me. This is my family. This is my home.”
“I do this for a reason.”
Life hasn’t exactly been kind to Greg, who (understandably) champions the underdog and accepts pain and adversity as the rule rather than the exception.
As a child growing up in poverty in Kenova, WV, Greg lived the kind of life one might expect to see on a placement referral. He never knew his father and his mother was both physically and emotionally abusive. As the object of her misplaced anger and parental neglect, Greg was eventually abandoned. Soon after his eighteenth birthday he was thrown out of the only home he had ever known and left to fend for himself on the streets.
After finding Greg sleeping outside his high school gym, his grandmother took him in to live with her in a crowded foster home where he shared a bunk bed with one of the youth. Although his grandmother lacked financial means, she was the one and only relative willing to support Greg by any means she had to offer. To this day, he credits her as a formative figure in his life and his inspiration to help others overcome even the most devastating adversity.
To understand Greg is to understand that when he builds families he is also building a part of himself, restoring and strengthening that within him which both harbors the pain of the past and defiantly walks right over it as he clears one milestone at a time on the road to success.
As far as state directors go, no one embodies the principle of “homegrown management” as much as (or quite like) Greg Thompson. He says “I am honored to be here at home and excited to work with everyone at the state and corporate level. There is so much to accomplish.” As the director of teams in Cincinnati and South Point and Necco Center in Pedro, Greg sees great opportunity to serve more children and grow Necco of Ohio to new heights.
We all know Greg as humble yet defiant, loud and proud - and always focused on kids. Pretty much everyone at Necco has a “Greg story.” Most all of them involve a passionate and principle-oriented debate about how we can do better for kids and families; oftentimes by doing better for the professionals charged with helping them turn their lives around.
Rob Goodwin, Director of Training and Development says, “When I think of the word ‘execution’ I think of Greg Thompson. Greg has a deep understanding of our corporate culture principles and realizes the difference between knowing and living them.” Referring to Necco’s corporate culture principles and his dedication to their embodiment Greg says, “All day, every day, someone is learning something. Oftentimes it’s me.”
As the new State Director, Greg’s absolute commitment to children and his passion for winning promises great things for Ohio as he sets about growing that state’s limitless potential to do good.
“We’re playing for first place,” he says. “Just like my Oakland A’s in Moneyball.”