I am a communications intern with USDA Rural Development in North Carolina and recently had the opportunity to visit the Boys and Girls Homes of North Carolina at Lake Waccamaw (BGHNC).
I knew we would be visiting a residential facility that cared for at- risk children, but I had no idea what to expect. When we arrived, the site of the lake was awe-inspiring. I thought to myself, perfect scenery for healing. We were whole-heartedly greeted in the Administration building, Flemington Hall, by Mr. David Passmore, Vice President of Residential Services, and Kathy Stream, Director of Public Relations/Marketing.
Mr. Passmore explained to me the purpose of the Boys and Girls Homes of North Carolina. I think the mission statement of the Home sums it up perfectly: Boys and Girls Homes of North Carolina, Inc. is dedicated to providing a comprehensive array of residential and community-based services to meet the needs of vulnerable children by addressing their physical, emotional, social, educational and spiritual development. BGHNC incorporates community services and agricultural skills into its program as well. The Home was awarded a grant from USDA Farmer’s Outreach and Education Project. The grant is being used to provide an opportunity to grow, harvest and market agricultural products. The children are learning to care for pecan trees, as well as vegetables and plants in the greenhouse.
After our initial meeting, we began a tour of the facility. I was able to talk with four young ladies who live at the Homes. I thought I would hear unthinkable stories that would make any person cringe, and perhaps in time I would. These young women seem like your average teens, only they are working hard to overcome issues related to their trauma.
We proceeded with a tour of the campus, giving us an overview of the daily activities and responsibilities of resident life at the Homes. The first stop on our tour was to the Leamon Rogers Memorial Chapel. This striking sanctuary is adorned with several eye catching stained glass windows that could inspire with just a glimpse. Nondenominational services and activities are structured to demonstrate how one’s faith may play a role in healing. The children are given the opportunity to experience a worship service on a weekly basis. The structure of the building is also reinforced for severe weather such as hurricanes, tornados, etc.
Proceeding to the workshop area, we saw residents and instructors in their classes. The young men and women have been working on a project making picnic tables. The shop instructor took such pride in the students’ independence: they were making the tables on their ownThe tables are being sold in the Country Store, which helps support the facility. Next to the lumber shop is an auto shop. The students work on agency vehicles or donated cars. Just recently, the students were working on a tractor that will be used on the grounds.
There are eight cottages on campus serving boys and girls. Each can accommodate up to eight children. All cottages are named after civic clubs that have partnered with BGHNC. Their meals are prepared during the week, but they are given a chance to cook for themselves on the weekends. Along with a safe haven, the children attend school on the grounds as well. The Columbus County Board of Education helps with the on-campus school program. The team at BGHNC is trying to reach national accreditation and is also developing an application to become a charter school.
Students volunteer to perform specific tasks, not only on campus, but within the community of Lake Waccamaw. Some locations include the post office, nursing homes, the library and the police department. Across from the campus, the students are able to utilize the large lot of land for gardening, a soccer field, an arena and a farm.
This facility is preparing the children to be responsible, model citizens. The teachings can help them overcome adversity and break the cycle of abuse. When I think about Mr. Passmore and what the facility represents, I think of the old African proverb “It takes a village to raise a child.” That village consists of the staff, civic clubs, the community as well as innumerable friends of children who help support BGHNC.