An update on the Cherokee Children’s Home

May 3, 2012

SUBMITTED By CRIS WEATHERFORD

     A few months back we printed an article giving some of the history and a brief look at the Children’s Home.  The intent of this article is to give everyone a more detailed view of what things look like currently at the Children’s Home.  The mission of the Children’s Home is to provide a home that is family oriented, reality based and goal directed for youth who cannot live in their own homes.  This is what the Children’s Home has done since 1969. I first want to discuss two of the main challenges the Children’s Home faces daily.

     In the beginning, the Boy’s Club employed “house parents” who stayed at the Children’s Home full-time, often raising their own children and families at the Children’s Home alongside the children placed at the Children’s Home.  In my opinion, this is the ideal situation in many ways, but primarily for the children as this provided them with the most stable, consistent environment.

     Over the years however our society has changed.  Either, by the pace in which our days fly by or the exposure we have to the rest of the world around us.  The cost to live in this world we have created is ever-increasing and places like the Children’s Home are not immune.  Over the years the Children’s Home has gone from employing families to live and work at the Children’s Home,  to working two weeks on and two weeks off, rotating with another couple.  It has further declined to resident counselors working eight-hour shifts.  While this may sound like a lot of shifting and coming and going to the children, they do seem to adapt quickly in much the same way they adapt to changing classes in school.

     The main challenges are consistency in getting all of these different workers with different personalities to follow the same guidelines and rules and scheduling and making sure all shifts are amply covered.  The reason I bring this challenge up, is that there are close to 1700 folks out there somewhere who have lived or stayed at the Children’s Home for brief and extended amounts of time.  Each and every person has some thoughts and ideas that are helpful both to the planning of the future of the Children’s Home and to the ways we address these issues daily.  If you are someone who has stayed at the Children’s Home and you would like to become involved, I have been in contact with Ruth McCoy who is interested in starting a Children’s Home Alumni Association.  I think this is a wonderful way for folks to stay involved, give back, and/or be instrumental in making positive changes they have been thinking about for years or to just stay in touch with folks you have shared a roof with.  If you are interested in this, please contact either Ruth McCoy (828) 737-1033 or Cris Weatherford (828) 497-5813 or crisweat@nc-cherokee.com.

     The second challenge is that the children of the present and the future need everyone’s help with our current facility.  While these buildings here hold a special place in my heart and have a special place in my memory, it is time for us to move on.  These homes have served us well for over 40 years.  Licensing codes, building codes and fire and safety issues have caught up with us.  The children and families we serve deserve the best we can give them.  We have drawn up plans and they are in the final stages of approval from the state Department of Health and Safety Regulations department who has to approve residential facilities for all licensed programs.

     Our plans include two nine-bed homes on Goose Creek Road, where Family Support Services was located. The total cost of this project is between 2.2 and 2.4 million dollars.  The Children’s Home and the Boys Club have secured roughly 1.5 million dollars as of April 26 including a grant from the Cherokee Preservation Foundation. This grant includes $200,000 to include many sustainable building practices which will lower energy and maintenance costs for years as well as a $200,000 matching grant so that we can test our fundraising skills and double our dollars.

     At this time, we have organized a fundraising committee to help plan different fundraising activities with the community.  This committee consists of Cris Weatherford, Children’s Home Director, Monica “Tigger” Lambert (monilamb@nc-cherokee.com), Children’s Home Administrative Assistant, Monica Wildcatt (moniwild@nc-cherokee.com), Children’s Home Social Worker, Trista Welch, Boys Club Graphics Department Manager, Terry Bradley (terrbrad@nc-cherokee.com), Boys Club IT Department, and Wilbur Paul, Boys Club Board President.  If you know or see any of these folks and have ideas on ways to help, please feel free to talk to them and become involved.

     Just as when the Children’s Home started in 1969, though times have changed, the need born of this community can be a need met by this community.  It will take literally everyone involved digging deep and sacrificing to meet this goal.  If you are one of the many groups in the community looking for a way to help and have either contacted us before or attempted to contact us before, please contact us now at (828) 497-5009 as we are now in a time of need.

     We are currently planning a Public Hearing on the new Children’s Home as soon as the plans are approved.  The meeting will be in the Birdtown Community and will be announced in the One Feather.  Please also look at our website at  www.cherokeechildrenshome.com.