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Ownership transfer of North Idaho facilities to take two years

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Echo Springs Transition Study Center, which operates transition living facilities in Coeur d’Alene and Bonners Ferry for students who are having trouble with college or are struggling with other life problems, has new owners as of the end of March.

Doug Kim-Brown, founder of Echo Springs and its director for the past 21 years, says new owners John Winton and Chris Ankney will transition into their new roles over the next two years, while he will continue to teach classes, meet with students and faculty, and collaborate. 

Neither Kim-Brown nor the new owners were willing to disclose the financial details of the transaction. 

At Echo Springs, a three-phase residential program for young adults, students live in a group setting in Bonners Ferry for six to seven months in a structured environment where accountability and responsibility are priorities. In the second phase, students move to Coeur d’Alene to another group setting where they are required to work as well as attend North Idaho College classes. Students live independently in a third phase of the Echo Springs’ program while still having access to the company’s mentors and support.

Kim-Brown says hundreds of students have gone through the program, although he didn’t have an exact number. The program operates with a staff of about 16, most of them during a student’s first phase of the program. Typically, 14 to 20 students are enrolled in the program at any given time, and student gender fluctuates but is usually about a two-to-one ratio of males to females, Kim-Brown says.

Echo Springs works with young adults, ages 18 to 24, at risk of failure because of depression, substance abuse, lack of motivation, or any number of issues. Kim-Brown says the biggest common denominator of the hundreds of graduates he’s seen are students challenged by anxiety. 

“More than a quarter million people drop out of college nationwide every year,” Kim-Brown says. “Our students are often brighter than average‚ they’re struggling in school or they’re out of school. They have the potential to lead independent lives, but they lack the tools‚ the drive‚ and the confidence to get back on track. Some of our students are transitioning out of therapeutic boarding schools‚ recovery centers‚ or wilderness programs.”

Kim-Brown says he has no immediate plans to retire, but will work with Winton and Ankney during the transition. “We’ve been strategizing this succession plan for two years. This assures continued, effective stewardship and a smooth transition of our leadership team.”

Winton is the co-founder of Breakwater Expeditions based in Idaho, with 20 years of experience in outdoor interventions and program development, Kim-Brown says, and Chris Ankeny has led at-risk youth for more than 12 years, most recently with Pioneer Human Services-Camp Outlook, which serves juvenile offenders in Washington state. 

Winton says he is excited about the transition.

“I’ve led well over 300 trips in the wilderness, and it’s time to trek a new path.”

Judith  Spitzer
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Reporter Judith Spitzer covers technology, mining, agriculture, and wood products for the Journal. A vintage-obsessed antique collector in her off hours, Judith worked as a journalist in Colorado and Oregon before joining the Journal.

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