Houseparenting at ABCHomes
Wendy Evert is busy in the kitchen preparing supper for eight teenage boys in her care. One teen helps her set the table, and nearby another completes his homework.
Meanwhile, Wendy’s husband, Dan, is on his way to Bergman High School to pick up three boys from soccer practice and then on to Harrison where one teen needs to drop off a job application. They’ll make it home just in time to sit down for the evening meal. Chores, more homework, showers and bedtime will follow.
A typical day at the Boy’s Ranch Cherokee Cottage is winding down.
“It’s always busy around here,” said Wendy. “Many times the schedule is daunting, but we all seem to get things done.”
The Everts serve as houseparents at the ABCHomes’ campus near Harrison. They care for eight older teen boys who are participating in the Ranch’s Independent Living program. This program is designed to teach boys living skills so that they will be prepared to go to college or to live on their own after they leave the Ranch.
The Everts, who have served as houseparents for three years, say they are “blessed” with the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of teenage boys, many who come from unimaginable home situations.
“All the boys have issues when they arrive, whether it is behavior problems, school issues or that they simply came from a bad home life, ” said Dan, “It is very fulfilling to see them overcome these challenges right before your eyes.”
Wendy said her “greatest joy” as a houseparent is seeing God work in the lives of the boys. Noting that many boys have never had any Christian influence in their lives before arriving at the Ranch, Wendy said, “We try to plant seeds for the gospel ... Little by little we see the boys grow in the Lord.
“We pray that when they leave and go back, sometimes into the same environment they left, that we have made some spiritual impact on their lives. We hope they will then turn around and be a spiritual leader around others.”
Bill Vondermehden, Ranch director said the Everts are taking the Ranch to a higher level of excellence as they provide firm loving direction to the Independent Living group of residents.
“These young men who are graduating,going to college,getting jobs,driving and becoming involved in the community make for an exciting but busy household,” said Vondermehden. “Dan and Wendy are a perfect fit for these young men and the residents love and respect them.”
Kim Grayson considers houseparenting her “passion,” serving at the Baptist Home since 2000. Kim is a single housemother, ministering to eight of the Baptist Homes’ youngest boys.
“Ms. Kim’s” boys are known around the campus as the best dressed and best mannered.
“What I enjoy the most about my job is the reward of knowing that I have made a difference in someone else life,” said Kim. “I handle these eight little boys with a lot of prayer, discipline,structure and a daily routine.”
Admitting that it is challenging at times, she said, it is worth it to “Know that I have made a difference in a child life and that he will become a better person in society.”
Baptist Home director Randy Luper said , “Ms. Kim is a gifted house parent. She recently needed to take a few days leave and at one point it took four staff members great effort to do what she does by herself with little apparent effort.
“One staff member was recently overheard calling Ms. Kim a “miracle worker.” She is a blessing to us and a blessing to the children she cares for.”
ABCHomes newest houseparents are Zack and Lori Birdsong. The duo came on board Feb. 1, as houseparents at Promise House Maternity Home, Little Rock. They previously worked as houseparents in Michigan.
The duo, who has a 3-year-old son of their own, felt a strong call by God on their lives to serve the teenage and preteen, pregnant moms-to-be. They look forward to see how God uses them to make a difference in the lives of the girls.
“It has been a wonderful experience so far, said Zack. “We are enjoying ever minute of it.”
Zack says he strives to be a positive, Christian male role model for the girls, something many of the girls have not experienced in their young lives. “I look forward to gaining their trust,” he said.
Lori said she desires to be a Christian role model and mom to the girls. “I want to have a spiritual impact on their lives.
Jennifer Cloyde, Promise House director praised the couple. “I been so impressed with Lori’s servant heart ... in going the extra mile to meet the girls’ needs,” said Cloyde. “Zack is so aware of the girls needs and he desires to be a great male role model for them. “
ABCHomes has houseparents serving on six campus locations across the state, including Monticello, Harrison, Little Rock, Judsonia, Paragould and West Fork.
For additional information on house parent ministry at ABCHomes, call 501-376-4791, ext. 5167 or go to www.abchomes.org.