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. 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 kids 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!