We had the opportunity to interview Kathy Dellinger, who now serves as Executive Assistant to our CEO and Deputy Director. She is also part of our External Relations team. Kathy began with Crossnore in November of 1972. This fall, Kathy will celebrate her 50th anniversary with Crossnore. FIFTY YEARS! She was gracious to allow us to interview her about our Avery campus, through the years.
How did you find out about Crossnore? What brought you here?
I live locally so I had always known about Crossnore. I went to school with children who lived at Crossnore and many of them were my best friends. I thought Crossnore’s children lived in a rich boarding school because they always had nice clothes. They talked of fun campus activities, Saturday night dance parties, beach trips, trips to DC, etc.
I always thought I would like to work here because there were so many kids of all ages. I truly had no idea what Crossnore was all about until I came to work here in 1972. I first worked in data entry but within a couple of months, I was pulled in as the Executive Secretary for the interim director. Since that time, I have worked with six directors and three interim directors.
What do you like to share about the history of Crossnore School?
I loved learning about the history of Crossnore. I am amazed by what Doctors Eustace and Mary Martin Sloop, accomplished. Their dream, strong work ethic, and determination created this “Miracle in the Hills.” They were determined that children would have all their needs met, including spiritual. That is why the E.H. Sloop Chapel was built in the center of campus. Prior to the Chapel, children walked half a mile or so to the historic Crossnore Presbyterian Church, also built by the Doctors Sloop.
What was Crossnore School like back in the 1970’s?
In the 1970s, Crossnore had about 12 cottages. We served about 210 children year round in residential care– some in smaller cottages that still remain on the campus today. But the majority were in large three-story dormitories. There were typically 12 children in smaller cottages and up to 25-30 children in the larger dormitories. State licensure guidelines were much more relaxed at that time. Children remained in residential care for extended periods of time. Four to six years was typical. Some children actually stayed from grade 1 -12. Some of the children were orphaned or half-orphaned, but the majority were placed through DSS or by legal guardians. We often had large sibling groups. Cottage Parents worked pretty much full-time with only a few days off or a weekend away if needed. That changed in the 1990s when the 7-days-on, 7-days-off shift began. Residential students attended public schools in Avery County until the Williams Academy was built in 2001. Crossnore had a remedial reading lab in the evenings with tutors who provided assistance with homework and special school project. Counseling was available through community services.
What were interactions with the children like then? What about now?
From day one, Crossnore felt like family. Work was not just 8 hours a day. All evening baseball games and other children’s activities were open for staff to attend. And we were encouraged to. We became their cheerleaders and fans at ballgames, supervised dances, attended birthday parties, participated in track & field days, etc. Children stayed in care longer than they do now, so you actually became like an extended family member watching them grow. Even though stays are much shorter in residential care today, we still have time to get to know children and participate in their lives. We go to the Academy for Awards Programs, and host student workers all over the campus — stores, shops, dining hall, weaving room, office, etc. Having student workers is always a favorite for me. I know the students more on a social level, but having a student worker is when you get to know them a little better, like their cottage parents and therapists get to know them.
What has remained constant over the years?
Crossnore is changing and growing to serve more and more children in a variety of ways. We now have ways to provide even more hope, healing and a future for children. The one thing that was true years ago and remains true today — Crossnore’s focus remains on the children and what is best for them. I feel that we strive to help give children roots and then, when the time is right, we help them find their wings. It has been an honor and great joy to be a part of Crossnore through the years. I enjoy giving tours and telling visitors about this great work. I encourage visitors to take time to learn about Crossnore and then challenge them to find a way to get involved. There are so many children, so many needs, and so many ways to share. Prayers and financial support are always needed. One just needs to find the right niche for them personally and then get involved. The reward is lasting!
How do you feel your time at Crossnore has changed you?
One thing that has changed my life is hearing the sounds of laughing children almost every day for nearly 50 years. These children are living apart from families and loved ones. Yet they manage to laugh every day and even share a smile with you. We should all strive to be more like the children.
We will be better humans by just being in their presence.