Sometimes you meet people in life who seem to make it their mission to take care of others. Such is the case with alumnus David Irwin.
David arrived at the Winston-Salem campus in 1971 with an older sister and a younger sister. Their father had passed away with cancer several years prior and their mother experienced some health issues leaving her unable to care for the children. David’s aunt and uncle stepped in to care for him and his sisters, but their children were grown. As members of a Methodist church, their pastor recommended The Children’s Home as an option for David and his sisters. It was a difficult time for the family and David said, “When we came here, we knew we were staying here.”
Life at the “Home.”
David lived in John Neal Cottage when he first arrived. He says that the feel on campus was very institutional at that time. He was able to see his sisters once a week though and remained close to them, especially the younger sister Patty, as they grew up. David lived on campus until he graduated high school. He then chose to attend Western Carolina University.
While students were encouraged to go to college, their expenses were not paid for them. David worked hard and saved all his income to repay the Home for his tuition. He spent summers painting to earn that money. But one summer, he was laid off and knew that he wouldn’t be able to return to school in the fall. While visiting Patty on campus, he ran into Hubert Goodson, who ran the maintenance department. Hubert offered David a job, which he accepted and continued to work for the next seven years.
Working to create a better life.
David says that Hubert was a wonderful man, and “The best boss I ever had.” Hubert was full of praise and encouragement and David remembers that everyone felt like Hubert was a dad to them. After working at the Home for seven years, David struck out again on his own. He obtained a degree in commercial art from Rutledge College, interned at the Winston-Salem Chronicle, and worked at Ad Type for 10 years.
David also worked with glass sculptor John Kuhn. Kuhn was commissioned to do a piece for Forsyth Medical Center after 9/11. David worked with John during this time and remembers working on this project. The piece is called Hope and Healing and is displayed at the Forsyth Regional Cancer Center. Hope and healing might be an apt phrase to describe David’s life too.
A legacy of caring.
Throughout his life, David has cared for other people. He says his time at the Home prepared him for this life in ways he didn’t realize at the time. “I probably wouldn’t have liked who I would have turned out to be if I hadn’t come to The Children’s Home,” he said. He took care of Patty, even after he was in college and working. Later on, as he became a father, David realized how much he preparation he had for being a dad. “Growing up here made me a better parent,” David recalls. “The purpose for my life is to help my children become happy, healthy, productive, and God-fearing. The difference is that I get to be here for them. That’s the best feeling in the world.”
This life of caring for others even affected David’s neighbors when he bought his first home in Ardmore. At that time, Ardmore was not the neighborhood of beautiful historic homes that it is today. At least, it wasn’t until David started working to help restore the neighborhood. He was also instrumental in starting the Neighborhood Watch to address rising crime in the area. Now Ardmore is one of the coveted places to live in Winston-Salem.
A beautiful life today.
Today, David runs his own painting business, Brushworks Restorables, which he opened in 1997. In his work he gets to bring new life to buildings and homes. David continues to parent his children, Katie and Daniel, and to provide them with things he missed out on. Katie graduated from Appalachian State University in 2018 and Daniel is a student at Forsyth Tech.
In reflecting on his time at the Home as a child and then again as an employee, David said, “I love the changes that Crossnore has brought to the Winston-Salem campus. I know kids were helped throughout the history of the home but feel that this is the right time for the home to move into the future.”
Coming full circle.
In 2016, David volunteered to help repaint Woosley Chapel, another project of bringing life back into a space that had sat unused for a long time. The work also gave him some insight into the new organization. David said, “It felt like the place I was supposed to be and a project I was supposed to work on. I got to meet the new leadership and see how things were changing. I believe in the Crossnore approach so much that I became a monthly supporter. I want to see Crossnore do well for the children it serves.”
So David’s life has come full circle. From his time spent on the Winston-Salem campus as a child, as an employee, and now as a volunteer and supporter, David continues his life of providing hope and healing to spaces and people in need of a little care. It’s a life that is an example to all.