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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 huebnerh@ccho.org 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 steinerl@ccho.org to coordinate your efforts and ensure that we don’t receive duplicate movies. You may also choose to make a financial gift online at ccho.org/give.

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

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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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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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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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