Page 2 – Christian Children’s Home of Ohio

Life lessons learned (Story 9 of 50)

CCHO is celebrating 50 years of ministry! Throughout 2019, we will be sharing stories of the lives that have been forever changed by the work God has done through our family of ministries (CCHO, Encourage Foster Care and Encompass Christian Counseling). This next story comes from a former teen resident of cottage 1. In story #9 from our 50 Stories for 50 Years of Ministry series, Amanda shares how her life has been deeply influenced by the kindness of residential team members at CCHO.

I was 16 years old when I came to CCHO. I was a lost, angry teenager, but the love and support of CCHO helped mold me into the woman I am today. I was a resident of cottage 1 for almost a year. I made friends that I’m still friends with today. I learned how to ride horses and clean stables as well as saddle horses and clean hooves. To this day I still remember how to do those things. I remember the joy of riding and the comfort of being around the horses.

While I was a resident I had tough days, but the house parents (as we called the cottage staff at that time) always helped me smile again. Sarah and Dwayne were one set of parents who made an impact on me. They were caring and fun and loved all of us individually. They tried to connect with each of us to help us the best they could. Sarah and I used to play SingStar when I needed cheering up. We used to make jewelry too. She was the best.

The other house parents Tim and Jenny were just as amazing. They loved with a gentler technique yet still as effective. If it wasn’t for CCHO, I would most likely be hooked on drugs or dead. But because I was blessed to have them, I am a mother and have a happy normal life.

Each of our house parents had a dog. Theirs was Maggie, a little schnauzer who was the sweetest cuddle bug. While I was there we went on a missionary trip to Noblesville, Indiana to help restore a historic landmark. The experience was more fun than it sounds 🙂 Afterward, we spent the next day at Kings Island. Best day of my life!

I may have left CCHO on not-so-good terms but everything I’ve learned from them has helped me grow and mature in ways I didn’t think possible. I’m now a 27-year-old mom who has a good life and still goes to church and uses the life lessons I learned from CCHO.

Thank you, CCHO, for everything you have done for me. I would still be a lost, angry person without you.

Celebrating Five Decades of Ministry

This story is part of our "50 Stories for 50 Years of Ministry" retrospective. Throughout 2019, we will be sharing 50 stories about the broken hearts, broken people, and broken families that have been made new by a loving and redemptive God. Have your own story about CCHO and our family of ministries? Click the button below to share it with us.

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A faithful foundation (Story 8 of 50)

CCHO is celebrating 50 years of ministry! Throughout 2019, we will be sharing stories of the lives that have been forever changed by the work God has done through our family of ministries (CCHO, Encourage Foster Care and Encompass Christian Counseling). Today, we celebrate the life and ministry of a man who helped lay the foundation upon which our agency is built. Dennis Bowers, CCHO’s first executive director, is the subject of story #8 from our 50 Stories for 50 Years of Ministry series.

Fifty years ago today, on a Tuesday evening at Rittman First Church of Christ, 12 men were selected as members of the interim Board of Directors for Christian Children’s Home of Ohio (CCHO). Several months later, one of those men would become CCHO’s first executive director while also serving with his wife as the organization’s first set of house parents.

Dennis Bowers and his wife Dorthea faithfully served CCHO for its first decade of ministry. Dennis and Dorthea, along with their three daughters, Debbie, Denise and Darlene (above), lived in the original house on CCHO’s 175 acres of farmland from 1969-‘79, providing faithful guidance and leadership to the fledgling ministry while serving as foster parents to the organization’s first young residents. Dennis and Dorthea also were charter members of Parkview Church of Christ in Wooster. Sadly, on Wednesday, April 3, 2019 – nearly 50 years to the day that he accepted the nomination as one of CCHO’s first board members – Dennis Bowers passed away at the Sycamore Run Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in Millersburg, surrounded by his family.

In honor of his life and his service during those first day’s of CCHO’s existence, we wanted to share the official minutes (read below) from that first meeting on April 22, 1969 at Rittman First Church of Christ, along with a photo of Dennis and his family from their time with CCHO. We’re so grateful for people like Dennis, Dorthea and our original board members, whose heart for children in need helped lay the foundation for 50 years of ministry at CCHO.

Original Board of Directors

Ken Bliler (Sherman Church of Christ, Barberton)
Dennis Bowers (Parkview Church of Christ, Wooster)
Paul Carr (Jackson Christian Church, Massillon)
Rev. Paul Carson (Rittman First Church of Christ)
Charles Deitrich (Welcome Church of Christ, Millersburg)
Paul Hubacher (Church of Christ, Orrville)

Rev. Ed Hughes (Parkview Church of Christ, Wooster)
Rev. Bill Keever (Millersburg Church of Christ)
Joe Noll (West Akron Church of Christ)
Rev. Don Scott (Lakeview Church of Christ, Akron)
Mahlon Sommer (Millersburg Christian Church)
Earl Taylor (First Church of Christ, Rittman)

Celebrating Five Decades of Ministry

This story is part of our "50 Stories for 50 Years of Ministry" retrospective. Throughout 2019, we will be sharing 50 stories about the broken hearts, broken people, and broken families that have been made new by a loving and redemptive God. Have your own story about CCHO and our family of ministries? Click the button below to share it with us.

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Perfect love casts out fear (Story 3 of 50)

CCHO is celebrating 50 years of ministry! Throughout 2019, we will be sharing stories of the lives that have been forever changed by the work God has done through our family of ministries (CCHO, Encourage Foster Care and Encompass Christian Counseling). We hope you will enjoy story #3, courtesy of Encourage Foster Care, from our 50 Stories for 50 Years of Ministry series.

It’s not easy being a foster parent. In fact, many foster parents would say opening their hearts and homes to children in need is the hardest thing they’ve ever done.

Gwyn would agree. When she took in a terrified four-year-old boy and his baby sister nearly five years ago, Gwyn’s whole world was turned upside down. The siblings’ two-year-old brother had just died as the result of suspicious injuries allegedly inflicted by their mother’s boyfriend. After months of praying over the beds in an empty room in her house, Gwyn watched God answer her prayers in an unexpected way.

The transition was incredibly difficult for everyone, especially early on. The little boy, who insists he also had been abused by “the bad guy,” bombarded Gwyn with questions, trying to figure out if he was finally safe. Fear and anxiety ruled him, and he wondered why he hadn’t died too. His anger sent him into intense “fight mode,” repeating the words and actions that he endured from his mother’s boyfriend.

Gwyn says she believed that God had placed this little boy and his baby sister into her home for a reason, and she knew she had to love them in return because “perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18). “I couldn’t guard my heart if I was going to love them and give them what they needed,” she says. “I had to make them feel safe…. So I just said, ‘Okay, God, I’m going to love them while I have them. While they’re in the circle of my arms, my family, my home, you are giving them to me to invest, to love, to nurture, to do my best with.’”

Breakthroughs began to happen during the boy’s trauma-informed counseling, and six months later, he started praying that Gwyn would adopt his sister and him. That prayer was answered two years later.

Today, the nine-year-old boy has a new name – Joshua, which he chose because he wanted to be as strong and courageous as the Joshua he learned about one day in Sunday school. He’s a big baseball fan who loves camping, fishing and riding his bike. “He’s just my outdoor kid that wants to go wander the woods all the time,” Gwyn says. And after starting this school year two full grades behind in his reading level, Josh has nearly caught up with the other kids in his class.

Meanwhile, Josh’s sister, Lena Rose, is now named after Gwyn’s grandmothers. While she tries to make sense of her big brother’s grief and anger, Lena hasn’t been as impacted by the traumatic events as Josh because she was so young when she was placed in Gwyn’s home. She loves reading and will be starting kindergarten next year. “Lena would swim every chance she gets,” Gwyn says. “She’d grow a tail if she could, so we love mermaids now.”

Gwyn, Josh and Lena Rose

We featured Gwyn and her beautiful family in a recent video for Encourage Foster Care. To learn more about this ministry, please visit encouragefostercare.org.

While the initial trials and immediate turmoil have passed, Josh still has days when his emotions get the best of him. However, his overall progress, Gwyn says, is remarkable. He sometimes struggles understanding other people’s boundaries but he has become much more empathetic toward others.

“He definitely puts himself first,” Gwyn says, “but he’s able to recognize he’s doing it and he can come back and apologize (in those moments). I never saw that at all from him at first.”

In particular, Josh still wonders how “the bad guy” could do what he did. “I told him people can only do that if their empathy is broken,” Gwyn says. While Josh’s sense of empathy was damaged by what happened to him, Gwyn says she has explained to her son that they are rebuilding it. “I said…‘we’re teaching you to look at what is happening to others and how others feel, and you’re learning to care about other people.’ And that made sense (to him), and he took it and ran with it.”

Gwyn’s prayer for her children is that they would “love Jesus ridiculously,” that they would both grow up being incredibly strong and courageous, just like Josh’s namesake, while using their gifts to impact God’s Kingdom. As for herself, Gwyn has been reminded that God is big enough for everything she has faced, and that He will be big enough for anything she, Josh and Lena will face in the future.

When asked what advice she would give to herself at the beginning of this emotional five-year journey, Gwyn says, “Hold on tight because you’re in for a wild ride.” She pauses before adding, “It’ll be really hard, but it’ll be worth it. It’ll be worth it.”

Celebrating Five Decades of Ministry

This story is part of our "50 Stories for 50 Years of Ministry" retrospective. Throughout 2019, we will be sharing 50 stories about the broken hearts, broken people, and broken families that have been made new by a loving and redemptive God. Have your own story about CCHO and our family of ministries? Click the button below to share it with us.

Read more

“I don’t want you to love me” (Story 2 of 50)

CCHO is celebrating 50 years of ministry! Throughout 2019, we will be sharing stories of the lives that have been forever changed by the work God has done through our family of ministries (CCHO, Encourage Foster Care and Encompass Christian Counseling). We hope you will enjoy story #2 from our 50 Stories for 50 Years of Ministry series.

Each day, employees of our family of ministries aim to uphold our three core values: relentless commitment, selflessness and kindness. We believe our interactions with the children, adults and families we serve throughout our three ministries, as well as our interactions with fellow employees, should be infused with these values.

Of course, living out these values day-by-day can be challenging. That’s why we love to celebrate moments when employees show relentless commitment, selflessness and kindness with our quarterly COMPEL Awards. Inspired by 2 Corinthians 5:14 (“For the love of Christ compels us…”), COMPEL is an acrostic for:

Christ
Others
Me
Possibilities of
Extravagant
Love

Each quarter, employees send in their COMPEL Award nominations by sharing short stories about ways they’ve witnessed fellow staff members show the love of Christ to others. We typically receive upwards of 50 nominations each quarter from all corners of our agency, and every nomination is read aloud and celebrated at our All Staff luncheons.

We will be including other COMPEL nominations in our “50 Stories for 50 Years” series, but today, we wanted to share one of the most powerful nominations ever submitted, from our former campus minister in 2012:

I saw Jesus that night…. Several weeks ago, on a Wednesday night as I was leaving one of the (resident) cottages, I heard loud yelling, swearing and profanity. Although it was dark, I could see the form of an animated youth and what looked like two staff members attempting to redirect the over-stimulated girl. I heard her (the youth) yell, “Get the *!%@ away from me…I DON’T WANT YOU TO LOVE ME….” The youth began to alternate between sobbing and screaming. After a while, the youth laid down on the cold pavement in front of cottage one and continued to sob.

By the way, it was freezing cold that night and although I was standing with my thermals, sweatshirt, coat and boots, I was STILL FREEZING out there!

Then, I saw Jesus lay down on the hard, cold pavement with that (girl) and stroke her hair and calmly reassure her…five minutes later, still on the ground but sobbing softly…10 minutes later, both still on the ground, no audible crying…15 minutes later, still on the ground…. I felt the need to help them get out of the freezing cold, so I asked the other staff who was there…if he could get some blankets from the cottage and cover them up!

When I left the scene, Jesus was still lying on the ground next to the youth, comforting her…. He was disguised as (former treatment specialist) Mary Fishburn.

On that bitterly cold night, Mary proved to this former resident that she was relentlessly committed to her by showing her kindness and selflessly putting the resident’s needs ahead of her own. It was exactly what that little girl needed, precisely at the moment, to discover some peace in the midst of her emotional turmoil.

What a great reminder of just how transformational Christ’s love can be for people who have experienced so much pain.

Celebrating Five Decades of Ministry

This story is part of our "50 Stories for 50 Years of Ministry" retrospective. Throughout 2019, we will be sharing 50 stories about the broken hearts, broken people, and broken families that have been made new by a loving and redemptive God. Have your own story about CCHO and our family of ministries? Click the button below to share it with us.

Read more

National Social Work Month

CCHO and our family of ministries is a social work agency. We believe in wrapping our clients with faith, love, relevant tools and supportive services to help them experience their worth in Christ and lead their best lives. We are deeply grateful for the countless contributions of our agency’s social workers throughout the year and acknowledge them especially this month in observance of National Social Work Month.

Each social worker’s day looks a little different depending on their area of service. Our organization utilizes social workers in homes, offices, schools, courtrooms and cottages. They provide mental health support and resource information. They come alongside individuals and families in times of crisis and help them make healthy choices for the future.

The following excerpt is from an interview with Kevin Hewitt, our president & CEO, originally printed in the Wooster Weekly News on March 25, 2013. A 25+ year social work veteran, he shares about the role of social workers and the motivation behind it.

“Social workers are the links that provide the services that our families need. They are aware from both a clinical standpoint and in a pragmatic way. They are wise in therapy techniques, and the empathy they have for kids and their ability to make connections, to find that child the right program they need and can flourish in . . . . Social workers are really taking up the cause of the powerless. Social workers give them a voice.”

“Social work really is showing somebody else that you value them. [It’s] the ability to bear one another’s burdens, to take some of the emotional baggage and pain and say, ‘you’re OK, we’re going to get through this.’ There’s tremendous value in that.”

Kevin continued, “In Scripture, we are repeatedly told to do good unto others, to love others. In Matthew 5:16, ‘that they see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.’ Or Ephesians 2:10, ‘For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared beforehand for us to do.’”

Our multi-site agency staff includes more than 30 professional social workers who serve others with leadership and compassion in this critical ministry career. They diligently work on behalf of others in need, and their relentless commitment brings restoration and healing for children, adults and families.

Ruth Aubrey, LISW-S
Alison Bartholomew, LSW
Necole Beitzel, LISW
Jessica Berry, LISW-S
Eleanor Brooks, LSW
Lindsay DeHaas, LSW
Alexandra Didato, LISW
Lenora Dotson, LSW
Kateri Ewing, LSW
Katherine Failor, LISW-S
Abby Fischer, LISW
Emily Frazier, LISW-S

Kristina Fryson, LSW
Valerie Grisak, LISW-S
Lisa Haberbusch, LISW-S
Kevin Hewitt, LSW
Brandon Jurkovich, LSW
Annita Justice, LSW
Candice Kocsis, LSW
Sarah Laubli, LSW
Sharon Mathias-Cain, LISW
Melissa McMullen, LSW
Alicia Miller, LSW
Rebecca Mollohan, LSW

Ronda Mullet, LSW
Shawn Pedani, LISW-S
Carla Plegge, LSW
Elizabeth Raynes, LSW
Tara Satterfield, LSW
Peggy Smith, LSW
Rebekah Smith, LSW
Glenn Sprunger, LSW
Julie Tuel, LSW
David Yoder, LISW-S
Renee Young, LSW

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2018 Donor Impact Report: A season of growth

As we embark on our 50th year of ministry in 2019, we also would like to reflect back on our previous fiscal year. We watched God continue to bless our family of ministries last year with growth and development across our agency, allowing us to help more children and families than ever before. As you’ll see in our 2018 Donor Impact Report, we could not have done any of this without the incredible support of people like you!

In our Children’s Residential Center (CRC) on the CCHO campus, we focused on further developing our clinical programming from multiple aspects, starting with our day treatment groups. We now have group therapy for each cottage on campus in one block of time, instead of having the groups split up throughout the day. This has shown to lessen the stress for the kids receiving treatment on our campus as well as our staff. Additionally, we have created a group curriculum that is tailored specifically to our program and focuses on various aspects of trauma-focused care.

We also implemented changes that allow our staff to more fully engage our young residents upon intake. Sadly, we have come to realize that some kids are simply not the best fit for our program, regardless of what we offer, so we have been working to more firmly establish procedures to review each residents’ placement in a timely manner to then decide whether he or she will respond well to our program. Furthermore, we have added additional services at the outset of their treatment programming to identify interests, breed connection opportunities and encourage engagement.

We also continue to see growth of all kinds through our Encompass Christian Counseling services, having completed 1,000 counseling sessions in one month for the first time last summer. In addition to our new office at One Center for Leadership in Canton, we expanded services to include school-based partnerships with the Tuslaw and Triway districts. In our equine therapy program at One Heart Stables, we have incorporated a new trauma-focused therapy model, Natural Lifemanship. This model focuses on the exploration of healthy relationships and learning to connect with self and others through interactions with our therapy horses. In a world that struggles with authentic connection, clients are given the opportunity to experience healthy connection in relationships, thus opening doors for emotional healing and trauma processing.

Our Encourage Foster Care ministry saw significant growth as well, with 10 new families joining our network and even more registering for pre-service and on-going training classes. This growth allowed us to add to our staff as we continued expanding into neighboring communities and churches, all with a unified purpose. Finally, we are seeing wonderful development and rich connections with our new mentor program: A Friend in Fostering. While not everyone can take in a foster youth, everyone can help or volunteer.

To see all the numbers and learn more about our previous fiscal year, please check out our 2018 Donor Impact Report.

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Trusting in a better plan

As we begin our 50th year of helping people experience their worth in Christ, let’s celebrate God’s transformational work in the life of one young boy over the course of one year and 22 days at CCHO.

Caden* came to CCHO from a foster home when his increasingly defiant and aggressive behaviors were making it evident that he needed more help for challenges that stemmed from physical, emotional and sexual abuse as well as neglect. Additionally, Caden witnessed violence between his mother and her partner. He also saw his mother buy and use drugs.

When Caden first arrived on campus a little over a year ago, just before Christmas, he was defiant, struggled to trust adults and was unable to develop friendships. He had frequent nightmares and flashbacks. And yet, because he immediately felt safe and loved, Caden adjusted to life here pretty quickly, even with the timing of the holidays.

Over the next eight months, he worked hard to complete his individualized treatment plan and achieve his goals. He effectively engaged in both individual and group therapies. He enjoyed recreational activities and also responded well to art and equine therapy. Caden demonstrated a significant decrease in physical and verbal aggression, opposition toward adults and post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms. His ability to concentrate and focus substantially increased. He was ready for the next step of his journey but there would be obstacles in his path.

For the majority of Caden’s time with us, the plan was for him to be reunited with his biological mother who drove every other week from out-of-state to visit him. We were making steps for his discharge to take place when his county discontinued the reunification plan. Caden was devastated. A letter was sent to his county noting his readiness for discharge and a foster family was identified for him. Steps were made for the transition to this family, but the placement fell through just three days before his scheduled departure.

This was another loss for Caden, and he was faced with feelings of rejection and abandonment all over again. After a couple weeks of processing this loss, Caden came to the staff and said that he was going to be okay because he realized God must have a better family in store for him.

During this time of waiting, Caden’s biological mother gave birth to his baby sister. He was really upset about not being able to meet her. As Halloween and Thanksgiving came and went, he began feeling more and more hopeless. He was devastated at the thought of spending a second Christmas here. He desired to have a home and be part of a family.

Toward the beginning of December, his county identified another foster home for him. After the second visit with this family, Caden came back thrilled that his potential foster father told him he would officially be his foster dad. To top it all off, the foster family has an infant, which helped fill the void Caden was experiencing from not being with his baby sister.

We invite you to pray for Caden and his new foster family as they adjust to becoming a family of four. Please pray that he feels safe and secure in his new home and has peace with being separated from his biological mom and baby sister. If he isn’t able to return to his mother, we hope that he is adopted, finding his forever family. We also hope that Caden uses the skills he learned at CCHO in his new placement and continues to grow closer to God.

Faith played a big role in Caden’s healing story. He enjoyed reading his Action Bible and listening to Christian music on his mp3 player, using the music as a coping skill. He was always excited when it was his prayer day, and he often included all of his peers and staff in his prayers. Because of your generosity, CCHO was a safe place for Caden to receive treatment and learn about his worth in Christ. Your giving allowed Caden to experience love and support in healthy ways. Thank you for making this #OneHeartOnTheRise transformation possible.

Jessie Berry is the therapist for Cottage 6 where our young boys live. She has served on staff since June 2015 helping children overcome past trauma.

*name changed to protect his identity


This story first appeared in our Winter 2019 All Things quarterly newsletter.

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Stand out and shine bright this Christmas

Each Christmas, we are reminded that the boys and girls in our residential treatment program are just that: boys and girls. They have experienced traumas and atrocities that most people will never have to endure. They’ve been wounded, deeply. They can lash out at the people around them because they lack the ability to process their often volatile emotions, much less control them.

But they are still children. And, like other kids their age, most of them still get excited for Christmas.

This year, we wanted to share a beautiful Christmas message from Natalie*, a resident in our teen girls cottage. Natalie came to CCHO in the summer of 2017 with a heartbreaking history of physical, sexual and emotional abuse. Growing up, she heard hurtful messages like, “I wish you weren’t around” and “I wish you were never born.” Because of that, Natalie still struggles with her feelings toward the family members who betrayed her.

Since arriving on campus, Natalie has begun to understand that the messages she heard as a young girl were lies. Instead, she has heard the truth: that she was created for a reason, that she is loved and accepted unconditionally, that God has a purpose for her life.

This Christmas, we celebrate our Heavenly Father, who came down and took on our humanity simply because He loved us. We also celebrate a Creator who made us each unique, who blessed us with our own special giftings and abilities. As Natalie wrote in her message, “God made everyone different.”

As we witness the ways God has slowly and delicately worked on healing Natalie’s heart these past 18 months, we are excited to see how she “stands out and shines bright.” And we pray her hopeful message is a blessing to you this Christmas.

*Natalie’s name has been changed to protect her identity

Provide safety & care for hurting kids this Christmas

A gift of $80 this Christmas will provide one night of safety and care for a child in need. What a gift you can give!

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