You are reading excerpts from an article written and published by Mick Schulte, Photographer. Original post here. Reprinted by permission.
Andrew and Melissa hold a special place in my heart. They are in the small group of couples that I call my “wedding babies.” They believed in me, despite my lack of experience, and let me document their wedding day. I will forever love them for that gift and part of me will forever be apologizing because of the things I wish I would’ve known back then. But even more than their trust in me, I am grateful for the people they are and the work they do. When we first met, I learned that they were both social workers serving in positions that most people couldn’t handle for more than a day. Melissa was going into homes where abuse was reported and determining whether a child should stay or be taken from the parents. Andrew was serving as a teacher to underprivileged children.
Fast forward a year into their marriage. These two decided to take on a joint challenge. They moved back to the place where they met, in the mountains of Boone, NC and started working as a team for The Crossnore School. It’s a faith-based community where children in need come to live. Most of the kids have been in foster situations from a very young age, bouncing from family to family, unable to find a permanent place to call home. At Crossnore, they live in group homes with “cottage parents.” Andrew and Melissa work in this role and live every other week in a house full of teenage boys. They make the meals, help with homework, play games with, and do all the things parents have to do to keep a household running. They also deal with the harsh effects of the conditional or total lack of love that many of these boys received from absent or abusive parents.
Andrew and Melissa let me do a short photo session of them and their sweet dog, Copper, to document their one-year anniversary. It was so fun seeing them in their married life. They seem so comfortable with each other. Their situation is unique in that they live, work AND PARENT SEVEN BOYS together. It’s challenging keeping a marriage healthy with two kids….how do they do seven??! I guess that’s why they get every other week off…
After our mini shoot, Andrew impressed my husband, Mark, and me with his gourmet coffee making skills. I’m not a coffee drinker but if Andrew was around, I’d have to reconsider. Then they gave us a tour of Crossnore and some of the buildings on the property. Due to privacy restrictions, I wasn’t able to take pictures of the kids, but I tried to capture some images of the grounds. It is a beautiful setting, and so peaceful. They showed us the Fine Arts Gallery and Weaving Room where employees and some students help create artwork to sell. Crossnore also has the largest thrift store in the region, which is also a student work opportunity.
Most impressive to me and Mark was the way Andrew and Melissa spoke about the kids. They are committed to changing the way these children understand love, making it unconditional, without judgement, and long-lasting. We walked away with such admiration for the two of them and for Crossnore’s mission, and we hope to visit again soon.
The Crossnore School is proud of all the cottage parents who pour into the lives of our students. For more information about making The Crossnore School part of your personal journey, contact Laura Laughridge at 828-733-4305 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
To schedule your own tour of The Crossnore School campus, contact Holly Barrett at 828-733-4305 or email@example.com.