Samuel M. Purington, 37: Volunteer Transportation Center


His wife’s experience working at a nonprofit agency and a desire to spend more time with his growing family convinced Samuel M. Purington to take a pay cut, leave the corporate world and become executive director of the nonprofit Volunteer Transportation Center.

“My wife had been the director of the Lewis County Domestic Violence and Rape Crisis Unit, so I had lots of experience with how rewarding a career in nonprofits could be,” Mr. Purington said. “She has had a huge impact on mentoring me and helping me to see the pros and cons of the career choices I’ve made.”

In 2010, Mr. Purington was appointed executive director of the agency at 203 N. Hamilton St., Watertown. He left a job as business development and engineering manager at Kraft Foods Inc., Lowville, after more than a decade with the North American food giant.

The career change has given Mr. Purington more time to spend with his wife, Kathleen, and their three children: Jack, 9, Julia, 5 and Charlie, 2. He and his wife are graduates of Carthage High School and SUNY Potsdam. Mr. Purington earned a master of business administration from Clarkson University.

“As your kids get older and you get older, your priorities shift,” he said.

Since he joined the Volunteer Transportation Center, Mr. Purington has been able to expand the agency’s services from Jefferson County to Lewis and St. Lawrence counties. The agency helps north county residents, including the elderly, with transportation for medical appointments, grocery shopping and other needed trips.

Under his leadership, the number of miles driven by volunteers has grown from 2 million to 4.5 million annually, and the number of volunteer drivers has increased to 250.

What he enjoys most about working for the center is “being part of a team of people that want to make something better,” Mr. Purington said.

His mentor in the nonprofit sector has been Benjamin P. Coe, the Volunteer Transportation Center board member emeritus who nominated him for this award.

Mr. Coe has taught him to understand “the balance between helping people and running the business of a nonprofit, so you can continue helping people for years to come,” Mr. Purington said.

“Those working with Sam have seen how incredibly skilled he is with computer technology, in managing and motivating staff and volunteers, in verbal communications, and in working with a board of directors to propel the organization into a financially thriving nonprofit corporation,” Mr. Coe wrote in his nomination.

Mr. Purington, a board member of the Watertown Noon Rotary Club, is also committee chairman of the “Roses for Ghana” effort that several north country Rotary International clubs support. The project raises money to help pay for wells and latrines throughout the West African nation.

He is also a member of the Samaritan Keep Home board of directors, past volunteer for the Meals On Wheels program and a youth soccer coach.

Mr. Purington said one of the “biggest myths” in the business world is that “business people don’t care about the community, they just care about the bottom line.”

“I have met so many business owners who have strong feelings of belonging to their community and have made a commitment to make it a better place for this generation and the next,” said Mr. Purington, a 2011 graduate of the Greater Watertown-North Country Chamber of Commerce Jefferson Leadership Institute Class.

What’s his advice to other young professionals?

“Make sure you establish boundaries for how much of yourself you are willing to give to your work,” Mr. Purington said. “Finding the right balance of work and personal life is more than a catch phrase.”

One thing his co-workers may be surprised to learn about him?

“I don’t like to drive long distances,” he said.

— by Norah Machia


The Samuel M. Purington File

Hometown: Carthage

Professional position: Executive director, Volunteer Transportation Center, Watertown

Family: Wife, Kathleen; children, Jack, 9, Julia, 5, and Charlie, 2

Education: Jefferson Community College; bachelor’s in managerial accounting and employment relations, SUNY Potsdam; master of business administration, Clarkson University

Community involvement: Chairman, Watertown Noon Rotary Club Joint International Projects committee; board member, Samaritan Keep Home; member: North Country Council of Social Agencies and Watertown City Transportation Council; 2011 graduate, Greater Watertown-North Country Chamber of Commerce Jefferson Leadership Institute

Last book read: “Fall of Giants” by Ken Follett