Gary Porter – Christian Children’s Home of Ohio

Gary Porter

Fifty years in one big weekend (Story 16 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). As our 50 Stories for 50 Years of Ministry series continues, we look back on our first five decades of ministry with a new video that was part of our big 50th Anniversary Weekend Celebration. Read on to watch the video and to read our full weekend recap.

What a way to commemorate five decades of ministry! More than 1500 people attended our three-day celebration on June 7-9, a weekend-long series of events designed to look back on all the ways God has blessed CCHO through 50 years of ministry while looking ahead in anticipation of what may be next. Each day was memorable in its own way, helping to make for one unique experience for everyone involved!


Our 50th Anniversary Celebration Weekend kicked off on Friday, June 7 with the ribbon cutting for our new Children’s Leadership & Recreation Center. This new complex on our Wooster campus consists of a middle school-sized gymnasium, a commercial kitchen and cafeteria, therapy spaces and several classrooms.

Click here to read more about the ribbon cutting, including our guests for the day, and to see photos from the event.


Our 50th Anniversary Benefit Dinner on Saturday, June 8 proved to be a beautiful evening filled with incredible stories of God’s grace in action. Special guests included Gary Porter, CCHO’s Executive Director for 33 years, and his wife Bobbie, foster/adoptive parent Julie Kandel and her (large) family, and former CCHO resident, Pastor Louie Pantelis. The evening featured a powerful time of worship led by a team of incredibly talented CCHO employees, the sharing of some compelling stories from 50 years of ministry, an inspirational spoken-word performance by CCHO’s own Brandon Jurkovich, and many other highlights.

Throughout the night, we debuted several videos to look back on CCHO’s 50 years of ministry and to look ahead at what may be in store. The first video of the night celebrated our agency’s history, featuring conversations with Gary Porter, CCHO’s current President & CEO Kevin Hewitt, the daughter of one of our original board members, and longtime employees.

Click here to read more about the 50th Anniversary Benefit Dinner and to see all the photos from the evening!


Our seventh annual Great Grill Off proved to be the perfect grand finale to our 50th Celebration Weekend! With 11 grill teams doling out more than 5000 sliders to nearly 1400 people in attendance, this was our biggest and best Great Grill Off yet. While the competition was stiffer than ever in our burger competition, Spoon Market took home the crown for the third-straight year.

Read a full recap of the Sunday festivities, along with all the stats from the day and a slew of photos, at!

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

A powerful night, a powerful God

How do you pack five decades of life-changing ministry into one night of celebration? That’s exactly what happened on Saturday, June 8 as more than 200 people gathered at the Shisler Conference Center in Wooster to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Christian Children’s Home of Ohio (CCHO) and our family of ministries.

There were former CCHO residents in attendance, past and present employees, people who have supported our ministry for years in a number of different ways, board members, and many others with a heart for helping people experience their worth in Christ. Longtime friends had a chance to reconnect and new relationships were formed. Laughter filled the evening and there were even a few tears as heartwarming stories were shared from the stage throughout the night. All in all, it was a sweet way to celebrate all that God has done through 50 years of ministry.

Gary Porter, CCHO’s Executive Director for 33 years, and his wife Bobbie were popular as former CCHO residents, employees and friends stopped by their table throughout the night to say hello and share some stories. After dinner, the evening’s program kicked off with a powerful time of worship, led by current CCHO employees Rod Kurjian, Matt Malanga, Emily Frazier, Daniel Crites and Brandon Jurkovich. The quintet brought everyone into God’s presence with “Mighty to Save” and “Good Good Father” before welcoming Kevin Hewitt, CCHO’s President & CEO, to the stage.

From there, employees from each of our ministries – CCHO, Encourage Foster Care and Encompass Christian Counseling – shared stories and updates from their departments. Pastor Louie Pantelis, a former CCHO resident, shared the stage with CCHO’s Spiritual Coordinator Tim Hartzler for a fun and touching Pastor Q&A session, while Brandon Jurkovich brought the house down with an incredible spoken word performance about legacy.

The evening was punctuated by the debut of several original videos, which we will share in this space in the coming days, but the most moving portion of the evening was when Julie Kandel and her family were honored for their incredible foster and adoption journey. Please be on the lookout for her video soon.

Thank you so much to everyone who helped us celebrate such a momentous milestone, and for the role you will play in our next 50 years of ministry!

Photo Gallery

Click the thumbnails below to view larger photos.

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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.

Read more