CCHO – Christian Children’s Home of Ohio


Josie’s triumph (Story 7 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). God even uses horses to help kids and adults understand His great and unconditional love for them. Story 7 (first printed in the spring 2019 issues of “All Things”) from our 50 Stories for 50 Years of Ministry series takes us to One Heart Stables on the Wooster Campus of CCHO. Our equine program began in 1995 as one more therapeutic approach to helping individuals experience their worth in Christ. This program has expanded to serve adults and children in the general public through Encompass. Equine Therapist Krista Overmire, LCPC, shares about God’s transformative work in the arena.

When I first met Josie, I met a powerhouse of a young woman; she presented as a strong, independent teenager with something to prove to the world. She was fluent in psychology, philosophy, and teenager, and she had an opinion about every current issue facing our nation. I found myself going home and researching current events just so that I could sound intelligent when conversing with her! Josie was strong and fearless.

During her first session with me, Josie’s goal was to meet each of the therapy horses and pick the one that would become her equine partner. She met our elegant Thoroughbred Adam, our charming Arabian Magic, our gentle Quarter Horse Blue, and our sweet Paint Sunny. But it was Moses who caught and held Josie’s attention. Moses is our Draft cross, and both his body and his personality are quite large. Moses has been known to nibble on coat pockets and hair, open his stall door when nobody is looking, and playfully throw his bridle across the aisleway when his stall window is open. Our theory in equine therapy is that people will pick the horse that they truly need; it turns out that Josie did just that.

Over the next few months, Josie came faithfully to the barn every week to work on forging a relationship with Moses. While Josie enjoyed Moses’ company, she found it incredibly difficult to maintain a mutual, emotional connection with the horse. Josie used her body language to ask the horse to come to her, yet the horse often responded by ignoring her completely; she found herself feeling frustrated and hurt from the horse’s seeming rejection.

Weeks turned into months of this similar pattern, and one blustery winter day, Josie broke. She cried as she told me about growing up in a family that viewed women as lesser than men, in both worth and intellect. Josie told me about how she constantly felt the need to prove to everyone around her, including her parents and siblings, that she was smart and that she was worth something. However, Josie’s defenses of intellect and wit did not work with the 1,400-pound animal. Josie had never received the unconditional love of another; instead, any love and connection that she superficially obtained was fought for and earned. Suddenly, her fight for her worth did not work, and she was left feeling alone and empty. I watched Josie shatter, all façade of strong and fearless left in the arena dirt.

Meanwhile, Moses was being, “Moses-y”, or his usual ornery self, on the other side of the arena; he was chewing on a lead rope and throwing it into the air, completely disengaged from Josie and me. As I walked Josie through her brokenness, she said something that I will never forget. Josie started to realize that when the horse started to connect with her, she felt a shift in her body energy, which she later described as, “surprise”. When I asked Josie why she felt surprised that the horse wanted to connect with her, she looked at the ground and almost whispered, “Why would anybody want to connect with me?” My heart sank, and tears filled my eyes.

In that moment of true vulnerability, God did the miraculous. Seconds after Josie released those heavy words and pain poured from Josie’s heart, Moses responded; he picked up his head, dropped the lead rope, turned around, and walked straight over to Josie, stopping directly in front of her. I watched in silent awe as Moses put his massive head over her shoulder and wrapped her in an equine embrace, as if to say, “You are worthy of love and connection, and I am going to prove it to you.”

Silence fell around the arena as both Josie and I let our tears fall. Time slowed as Josie wrapped her arms around the giant horse’s neck, buried her face in his mane, and wept.

Moses taught Josie about her inherent worth that day. After months of desperately trying to connect with the horse the only way Josie knew how, Moses showed her that there is another way. Moses taught Josie that she does not have to fight for connection or prove that she is worthy of love; instead, Moses loved and accepted her by authentically embracing her in a moment of vulnerability and pain. Moses taught Josie that she is capable of being loved unconditionally, perhaps for the first time in Josie’s life.

Isn’t that such a beautiful picture of how our God wants to connect with us? We are marred and stained with sin and shame, yet God wants to connect with us in our broken places. We try to act like we have it all together; we compete with our peers to see who can create the best façade of a perfect life. But God, like Moses, wants nothing to do with our façade and everything to do with the condition of our hearts. He meets us in our authenticity and wraps us in His unconditional, loving embrace, proving to us that we are loved and accepted, flaws and all. What a relief it is to know that I don’t have to be perfect to be loved and accepted!

Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you for your unconditional love. Thank you for the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus Christ, that we may be freely forgiven and accepted into your family. Teach us to love unconditionally the way that you love us. We love you endlessly.

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.

We will also be hosting our 50th Anniversary Celebration Weekend on June 8 & 9. We hope you can join us!

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The class clown

One Heart Stables is home to a select group of horses. Each of their distinctive personalities contributes to their role as “equine therapists” as they serve the children in our residential program as well as adults and children in the general public through Encompass Christian Counseling. We’ve come to believe that people will pick the horse they truly need, and in turn our clients are able to engage in an honest, non-judgmental relationship with their horse.

Name: Moses
Age: 11
Breed: Draft/Quarter Horse gelding

Moses was previously part of Ohio University’s equestrian program. He came to One Heart Stables in 2015. One of our younger horses, he is a true extrovert who loves to be around people and other horses. Moses’ broad back and smooth gaits are beneficial for clients with physical disabilities.

Moses is most definitely the “class clown” of the stables and knows how to make people laugh. He is often playful and mischievous, whether opening his own stall door or chewing on your jacket zipper. He loves to trail ride, possibly because he enjoys stopping to eat along the way. With his curious and hungry nature, the first “horse drive thru” came to be!

Therapy Comes in All Shapes & Sizes

When you donate to CCHO, you are ensuring that our kids receive access to a wide range of therapies including equine therapy. Client benefits include an increase in self-confidence, self-worth, communication skills, coping skills and problem-solving skills. Make a gift today!

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Minister to hurting kids

The character and commitment of our staff members are critical to us serving our clients well. Treatment specialists, a key position within our children’s residential center team, directly care for the needs and safety of our youth clients. This role offers the unique opportunity to build relationships with kids and teens and model for them what a healthy adult looks like. This position receives specialized training in caring for children and teens with trauma. It’s a great opportunity to explore the social services career field and gain experience working alongside other clinical team members. More than that, the treatment specialist role is a ministry to hurting kids looking for hope and stability.

We asked our staff to share about their experiences as a treatment specialist. Tim Hartzler, now our campus spiritual coordinator, served as a treatment specialist in our teen boys cottage for several years. Read his words below.

Being a treatment specialist is difficult and frustrating yet fulfilling and rewarding all at the same time. It can be frustrating watching kids make choices that negatively impact their life, and frustrating when you can’t do anything to help them.

However, it is incredibly fulfilling when you see residents make positive choices and changes in their lives that they have been struggling with, sometimes for all of their lives. Knowing, at the end of the day, that I have served a greater purpose than my own wants or desires, to put someone else’s needs first, is an incredibly rewarding feeling.

My motivation to help our clients is seeing the world through their point of view. Seeing them the way my heavenly Father sees me. To see each one as a lost and broken child that is unable to understand and cope with the world in which they have been brought up. And needing the grace, strength and peace that only comes from Jesus.

The reason I have dedicated time and energy can be summed up in James 1:27, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

What better way to show the love of our heavenly Father than to take care of those who are without a family. At the end of my life when I stand before God, I will not feel remorse over the difficulties I went through for these kids, but rather I will feel ashamed that I did not go through more for them.

Learn more about the treatment specialist position on our human resources page. We currently have openings on first, second and overnight shifts.

Treatment specialist applicants must be 21 and have a high school diploma/GED, valid driver’s license and reliable transportation. Treatment specialists are required to be able to restrain a client when necessary (training provided) and must be able to pass a pre-employment physical. References, background checks and drug screenings will be completed on all potential candidates. EOE.

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A place where kids and God can meet (Story 1 of 50)

For 50 years, Christian Children’s Home of Ohio (CCHO) has been “a place where kids and God can meet.” It is truly an honor to serve at a place where we see staff each day being the hands and feet of Jesus to children and adults from hard places. Initially ministering to three to five kids at one time, CCHO and our family of ministries today serves more than 1,000 active clients each month. That incredible growth was built on the foundation that was established in 1969 and further cultivated under the leadership of the first two executive directors, Dennis Bowers and Gary Porter. Dennis was the director for the first decade of CCHO’s history and, in 1979, Gary and his family began his over three-decade tenure at CCHO. A big bear of a man with a heart for Jesus that was even bigger than his stature, Gary’s love for all that is CCHO was and still is inspiring. It is with an extremely grateful heart that we present our first of “50 Stories from 50 Years of Ministry,” from Gary Porter.

~Kevin Hewitt, CCHO President & CEO

A farmhouse, small barn and old tenant house sat on 175 acres of land in Wooster, OH. A group of caring individuals with a vision to create a place where kids and God could meet tried to purchase the property, but no local banks would give them a loan. Incredibly, a family from Orrville Christian Church stepped up and bought the farm for $65,000 so CCHO could begin its ministry. Leadership then made payments on the land as finances allowed until the property was fully purchased. What a blessing.

When CCHO began in 1969, I was in the role of youth minister at the West Akron Church of Christ serving under the direction of Senior Minister Rod Huron. This godly man was a positive influence on my life. He also happened to be one of the initial leaders of CCHO, playing an instrumental role in the founding of the organization and in having me become involved in 1979 as well. I was also privileged to know most of the original board members.

At the time of its purchase, the land had been in trusteeship for years and needed a lot of repairs. I was a part of several groups that completed work projects at CCHO, and it was during that time that I fell in love with this emerging ministry. Little did I know or even imagine that in just 10 years, my family and I would be living on that piece of farmland and that I would soon become CCHO’s second executive director.

I believe this was all a part of God’s plan.

Gary in 1989 with his family on the CCHO campus

I have many memories of our years of service at CCHO, with certain individuals coming to the forefront of my mind. These are just a few of the lives God made new through our ministry.

I recall a 15-year-old girl who had already lived in 13 places before she came into our care. Today she has a ministry making comfort bags so that other children never have to use trash bags like she did. She and her husband just adopted two children.

I remember a young man who gives credit to our ministry for how his life was changed. He served four years in the Marine Corps. He is now married with a family of his own, working hard as a master electrician. He says that none of this would have been possible without a loving God and the caring staff at CCHO.

When we began our foster care ministry in 1989, we received a call from Cuyahoga County with a need for emergency placement for three girls who had been abandoned at their office. My wife Bobbie and I headed to Cleveland and as we entered the building, we saw the three young girls sitting on the floor at the feet of a caseworker. Our hearts broke and we immediately took them back with us to Wooster. All three eventually were adopted and went on to college. One of the girls came back to CCHO after graduation and served as a social worker in our foster care ministry.

I remember a young Cleveland girl who put all she could carry in a plastic bag, took a bus to her local children’s services’ office and said, “I can’t take it anymore.” She was placed in one of CCHO’s foster homes in Amish country and thrived there. She was first in her high school class, graduated from the College of Wooster, studied in London for a year, and then went to work for a major auto manufacturer.

I recall a very smart and rebellious young man who went through our residential program many years ago. This same man has been a missionary pilot for more than 20 years.

I think of a defiant teen girl who once told me, “You are not going to change me.” She went on to graduate from Milligan College with a degree in nursing and now supervises nursing at a hospital.

A Tribute to Gary

We honored Gary Porter for his 33+ years of stewardship with our first Heart for the Home award in 2017. Please watch this tribute video to learn more about the godly leadership Gary provided CCHO and its family of ministries for more than three decades.

God provided for my 33 years of full-time ministry. Achievements were and continue to be possible because of the commitment and sacrifice of the best staff serving in childcare anywhere. Our board of trustees consists of some of the most dedicated and caring people I have ever known. I was blessed to serve under their direction.

I had the opportunity to tell CCHO’s story to and seek support from more than 300 churches. And this is where I need to thank my family. We made these church visits together, set up displays, passed out literature and listened to numerous presentations. Any one of these family members could have done the full presentation on their own. I am grateful for their support.

CCHO has been blessed by all of our individual donors. Without them, we would not exist. We have also been blessed by our Lord Jesus Christ. If we continue to know who we are and Whose we are, the blessings will continue.

Gary D. Porter
CCHO Executive Director, 1979-2012

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.

We will also be hosting our 50th Anniversary Celebration Weekend on June 8 & 9. We hope you can join us!

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Calling all bidders!

We are gearing up to launch an online auction on March 15, with proceeds benefitting CCHO and our family of ministries. Of course, this isn’t our first rodeo – we typically host a silent auction as part of our Heart for the Home Celebration each spring featuring more than 100 auction bundles that receive nearly 500 bids annually. But this year, we’re changing things up!

As we commemorate 50 years of ministry with a benefit dinner on Saturday, June 8 and our seventh annual Great Grill Off on Sunday, June 9, we wanted to give donors and supporters a fun way to still bid on popular items. And so, we’re introducing the Promise Project Auction, where you can impact the lives of children, adults and families throughout Ohio by bidding on items, making cash donations or simply sharing the Promise Project Auction across your social media channels.

You’ll have the opportunity to click and bid on an array of things like vacation packages, golf packages, antiques, home décor, theatre tickets, sporting events and unique experiences. Beginning March 15, our first batch of items will be open for bidding. New auction items will be added on the first and 15th of every month, through June 14, and each item will be available for about two weeks, with the end date and time displayed with each item.

Bidding is similar to online auction applications like eBay, so get that mouse ready to click and bid! If you’re the winning bidder, your item can be picked up at the CCHO campus in Wooster. Special arrangements may be available on a case-by-case basis for delivery within an hour of Wooster. Tickets, gift certificates and travel packages will be mailed directly.

It’s quick and easy to register to bid; you just need to provide your name and email address. If you are the winning bidder for an item, you’ll be asked to provide credit card information on the secure site.

Click here to register for our online auction today. That way, you’ll be ready to bid when our first items go live on March 15! In the meantime, please help us spread the word by sharing our auction page on Facebook.

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Foster parents are invaluable

Foster parents are invaluable to CCHO’s ministry in helping kids experience their worth in Christ. They provide safety, security, love, compassion and support for children when they need it the most.

How does fostering fit into our children’s residential program?

Children at CCHO are working personalized programs with specific goals tailored to their needs and circumstances. These goals include plans for completing their programs, leaving CCHO with new skills, and reentering family environments. Ideally children are reunified with their biological family. When that isn’t possible, children are matched with foster parents with the possibility of this home becoming a forever home.

CCHO specializes in caring for kids with trauma in their background. Kids who successfully complete our program will do best in foster homes that understand how trauma impacts a developing young person. These families have participated in specific trainings such as TBRI so they can better care for children affected by abuse and neglect.

The need for foster parents is great. Research indicates that there will be more than 20,000 Ohio children in custody of their respective counties by 2020 due to a host of reasons with the opioid epidemic being a leading cause.

We invite you to learn more about Encourage Foster Care, one of our ministries with an amazing team to support you professionally and personally. From day one we desire to set you up for success in your role. Encourage’s Director Shawn Pedani, LISW-S, has written a blog on what it takes to be an influential foster parent.

First and foremost: foster parents are adaptable and flexible. They roll with the punches and don’t give into power plays with their youth. They frequently let their foster child(ren) have the last word. They have great self-awareness and recognize that everything doesn’t have to become a battle. Some Encourage foster parents say that parenting can’t always be structured with black and white thinking. The gray areas include the reasons why kids do what they do. Foster parents need to be openminded and use genuine empathy–at all times.

(Read the full article.)

Encourage hosts in depth foster parent pre-service training multiple times each year. Visit our training page for information and contact Heather Huebner, Recruitment and Engagement Specialist at or 330.462.1118 with your questions.

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Slow and steady wins the race

Each horse at One Heart Stables brings a unique personality to their role in equine therapy as they serve the children in our residential program as well as adults and children in the general public through Encompass Christian Counseling. We’ve come to believe that people will pick the horse they truly need, and in turn our clients are able to engage in an honest, non-judgmental relationship with their horse.

Name: Blue
Age: 23
Breed: Quarter Horse gelding

Many people love Blue because, contrary to his name, he is a beautiful gray color. Blue is the true definition of “slow and steady wins the race” and can often be found napping in his stall. He is more introverted in nature, but loves to get attention and be pampered!

Blue has a kind soul and is a good match for children or adults who may be intimidated by horses due to their size or temperament. He came to One Heart Stables from an anonymous donor who knew that his gentle spirit was a great fit for our therapy program.

Volunteer at One Heart Stables

Serve using your passions and gifts at One Heart Stables. Volunteer opportunities include general stable maintenance, equine grooming/care and horse leader/side walker support for therapy sessions. Learn more and inquire today.

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Cottage family nights

Our children’s residential center gives kids the opportunity to experience how a healthy family functions. Perhaps for you, some of your favorite childhood memories include family nights—nights to simply stay home with your loved ones and enjoy your favorite foods and movies or games. Each weekend our cottages do just that. Every resident is allowed to participate in family night. Their current behavior status determines how many privileges are included in their evening fun. These positive social experiences give them something to look forward to as well as provide encouragement and connection in their healing process.

Looking for a fun and unique way to give as a family? We invite you to consider a special donation to family nights. Below are some of the requested items for these cottage events.

Movie-sized boxes of candy (such as):

  • Sour Patch Kids
  • M&M’s
  • Swedish Fish Gummy
  • Nerds
  • Starbursts
  • Milk Duds
  • Reese Pieces
  • Mike N Ikes


Individual bottles of non-caffeinated drinks:

  • Pop
  • Juice pouches or boxes
  • Water
  • Gatorade

DVD wish list (please note these should not be Blu-Ray):

  • Incredibles 1 and 2
  • Iron Man
  • Iron Man 2
  • Iron Man 3
  • Hulk Movies
  • Maze Runner: The Death Cure
  • Maze Runner: The Scorch Trails
  • Lego Batman
  • Lego Movie
  • Home Alone
  • Home Along 2: Lost in New York
  • Home Alone 3
  • Home Alone 4: Taking Back the House
  • Home Alone: The Holiday Heist

If you would like to make a gift, please contact Lauren at to coordinate your efforts and ensure that we don’t receive duplicate movies. You may also choose to make a financial gift online at

Thank you for giving our kids the opportunity to just be kids.

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Thank you, Wayne County Community Foundation

CCHO is pleased to receive an $8,000 grant award from the Wayne County Community Foundation. We are extremely grateful for this contribution through the Beaverson Foundation Community Fund, the Leonard Schnell Community Fund and the William A. Foll, Sr. and Patricia K. Foll Community Fund. Their generosity will benefit The Promise Project capital campaign with funds specifically designated for volleyball nets and wall pads for the Children’s Leadership & Recreation Center.

The children in our residential center have experienced various types of intense trauma that can impede their ability to control thoughts, emotions and actions. Research indicates that play and games can improve executive function, working memory and self-control in children with behavioral issues. Safe, healthy play also has been linked to increased feelings of safety, reduced levels of aggression and a readiness to learn. In those playful moments when the kids can just be kids, they forget about the pain that brought them here, and instead they can be the wonderful, joyful and carefree children that God created them to be.

“Our promise is to help children who have endured unspeakable trauma find their worth in Christ,” says Kevin Hewitt, President & CEO. “We offer a variety of therapeutic, social, spiritual and educational opportunities to best care for our kids with the healing process. The Children’s Leadership & Recreation Center is another advancement in our service to hurting kids.”

In the midst of the winter season, we are reminded of the importance of a safe and warm indoor space for our residents to engage in healthy activities. Thank you, Wayne County Community Foundation, for your support of children in need. These funds shine brightly towards the completion of our capital campaign.

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Expressing God’s extravagant love

The song says Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year, but that’s not true for everyone. While life at home for the boys and girls on the CCHO campus was often terrifying, many of them are still homesick, especially this time of year. Sadly, these kids didn’t wake up in their own beds on Christmas morning.

But because of kind and loyal supporters, they did wake up to an astonishing example of generosity and love. Contributors to our annual Christmas Wish List program donated more than 400 gifts to 34 children on our campus. Wow! Even more incredibly, the Wish List donors sent in gifts to 97 kiddos in our Encompass Christian Counseling ministry, bringing the total number of gifts donated this year to nearly 1100!

Each year, we are blown away by this showing of love and support for the children and families we are blessed to serve. As Christians, we know Christmas isn’t about the gifts, but our Wish List program is a meaningful and memorable expression of God’s extravagant love for us, passed on to children who may never have experienced it before.

Cindy McCory, ReMax Showcase, Wish List donors for 5 years

I’ve been involved in helping CCHO for over 5 years. I was initially introduced through a friend who had fostered a couple boys through CCHO, and I wanted to help in some small way. I have four of my own children who I wanted to include in the process, so we started shopping for a child or two every Christmas. I would have each of my kids give up at least one of their Christmas gifts and took them individually shopping to pick out a gift for a child we were assigned. Every year I would bring my kids and their friends to wrap gifts for at least one cottage during the season. As my children grew, it became part of their Christmas and they had even taken on their own lists to organize and buy for. We would usually try to be available for any last-minute kids who needed gifts. It is not only a great way to help bring Christmas to kids who are in need, but an opportunity for my children to learn the real meaning of Christmas. As my kids left for college, I started including my co-workers at Re/Max to help sponsor kids. This year we bought gifts for 4 kids and had over 15 staff members come wrap presents! I am certain that participating in the program blesses the donors just as much as the Children on Christmas morning. It brings Christmas into perspective.

The Ballentine Family, Wish List donors for 10 years

We love to participate in the program to hopefully give some kids hope and share the love of God. To let them know, there are people who love them and want them to have their physical desires met by God’s grace and love for them. It has been a blessing to receive the kids lists, review them, then go shopping to search out the things they’ve asked for. Honestly, I also love the challenge of finding things they want, trying to figure out “who they are” through the notes of hobbies/favorite color, etc. and finding things that they will love. On Christmas morning, before opening our gifts, we pray a pray of thanksgiving for God’s generous gifts toward us and we pray for the kids at CCHO who are opening the gifts we purchased. Praying they are surprised and unbelievably blessed by them.

Bridge Street Church of Christ, Wish List donors for 19 years

Our youth group refers to it as “Holiday Smiles.” We have had other churches help over the years and most recently for the last 3 years Ohio University – Chillicothe Social Work program (SSWA) has also partnered with us to purchase the gifts. We started Holiday Smiles not only to give to the children at CCHO, but to create a service project for our own kids at BSCC. Holiday Smiles has become a tradition at BSCC starting every June at VBS. The collecting runs during certain fundraising events from VBS, craft shows, bake sales and chicken noodle dinners. It teaches our children to help others and give what they can and when they can. Organizing Holiday Smiles over the last 19 years has been the highlight of our Christmas activities each year. As a bonus, our congregation enjoys reading the thank you cards that we display each year. It adds a personal connection with the children. What a blessing!

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