One of the highlights of my childhood came when I was in the second grade. I won a Silver Medal for a written essay about what I wanted to be when I grew up. And it hung proudly in the main office window of my elementary school for weeks. I had drawn a picture of a large barn, with a slide and a bunch of smiling children running around. I wrote a short paragraph about my dream to one day be a safe place for children who were hurting. I wanted them to have a place to be at Home.
Joining the Crossnore Team
During the early parts of my education and career, I set my sights on the means to one day create that Home. In August of 2010, that journey lead me to Crossnore.
When I joined the Crossnore team, I was thrust into the unknown world of residential care for children. To be honest, many days were filled with children’s suffering and heartbreaking stories of pain and loss. Rarely were there days I could turn my mind off once I went home. There were even days I felt guilty leaving behind children who had no parents tucking them in at night to go home and tuck in my own. I looked for ways to seed care in every interaction I had with them.
The Power of a Caring Adult
So many of those were also days filled with irreplaceable memories of resilient warriors growing and thriving in spite of every setback they had experienced. I saw them nursing sick animals back to health and caring for one another in moments of despair. I got to see them thriving in sports and other extracurricular activities. I saw them getting their first jobs, earning their own school awards, and graduating from high school. I watched them moving into their own apartments. I saw them literally climbing a mountain (Pilot Mountain, to be exact) from the very bottom to the very top. I was and am still convinced: These kids can do anything when they have someone who believes in them. It was in that program I learned the power of a caring adult.
The Power of Finding Purpose
After pouring my heart into our residential care programs for over five years, often at the expense of my own family, I transitioned to serving as a part of our Therapy Services Team. During that time, I did everything I could to impact as many children and families as possible. My therapy niche quickly became focusing on healing for some of the worst types of traumas.
Through this work, we addressed pains but also searched for meaning from some of the worst moments one could experience. We began exploring how it could make you stronger, wiser, or better equipped to help others in the future. When telling their stories, children grew from titling their life as “Growing Up Alone” to “Better than Before.” And from “The Soldier who Lost it All” to “The Soldier Who Survived it All.” It was in that program I learned the power of finding purpose.
The Power of Restoring Family
In 2021, I was selected to spearhead the development of our new Family Preservation Department. The goal? To keep children out of foster care as often as possible. And for those in which it was unavoidable, to help them stabilize in a new place to call Home. We began developing programs that worked with the entire household to foster safety and stability through our Homebuilders and Family Foundations in-home programs.
Our Teams intentionally spend just as much time working with parents as we do children. We recognize both the power and pressure that come with parenting. We work to build stronger family connections and empower families to use new skills and build supports so they can maintain progress long into their future. This shift changes the trajectory for themselves and future generations. It was in this program I learned the power of restoring a family.
The Power of Unconditional Love
My experiences at Crossnore have not only changed me, they’ve changed my entire family. For years, we have all been impacted (directly or indirectly) by the stories and the struggles. We knew all too well that there were children in our community that needed a place of safety, whether for the short- or long-term. So together we committed to becoming a licensed foster home. And over the last few years we’ve had the privilege of being that place of safety for eight children so far.
Our household is busy and at times sheer chaos. But it’s filled with unrelenting hope for those who walk through the doors. Even more so for those when they are ready to leave. It is probably the most demanding and challenging role thus far. But my many years at Crossnore have prepared me well. It is in this role that I have learned the most important lesson of all, the power of unconditional love.
Whether it’s on the campus of Crossnore, in the community working with children and families, teaching or training new helpers in this field, or in the privacy of my family’s four walls, my intention every day is to be that place my childhood brain envisioned all those years ago. A place where children, and even this grown adult, can be at Home.