Patrick Henry gets new executive director

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By John Barnhart

Patrick Henry Boys & Girls Plantation has a new executive director. Local residents had a chance to meet him at a meet and greet at their Bedford facility, located on Dickerson Mill Road, this past Saturday.

    Robert Day joined Patrick Henry in June after doing fundraising work at Goshen College in Indiana. A Tennessee native, he holds  a master’s of divinity degree from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville and a master’s degree in social work. He’s pastored churches in Tennessee, Kentucky and Alaska. He has also worked as a social worker investigating child abuse cases.
    Patrick Henry is a non-denominational Christian ministry. It has homes in Rustburg, Brookneal, Halifax County and Wylliesburg, as well as in Bedford County. The homes are set up to house children in a family setting with. The homes are cottages. Each has house parents, a married couple who lives there. They are set up to provide a home for children between the ages of 6 and 18, with 32 children currently living in the homes. The home in Bedford County is a girls’ home.
    “We are based on a family model,” Day said. “We try to make it as much like a family as possible.”
    Patrick Henry does not accept any government funding.
    “It is the responsibility of the Christian church to care for these kids,” Day said.
    Not being part of the government has its plusses and minuses, according to Day. On the one hand, the government has no authority to make adults do anything. All placements with the Home have been done voluntarily –— none have been court-ordered. On the other hand, the Home has a lot more flexibility than a government agency would. It provides service based on Christian charity rather than bureaucratic rules.
    The government does have its role and Day, in his previous job as a child abuse investigator, helped rescue children from horrible situations.
    “It was the toughest job I ever had,” he commented. “You see horrible things doing that job.”
    The fact that both the government and ministries like Patrick Henry can each do things that the other can’t means that they need to work together, he said.
    “We can provide something that the state cannot,” he said.
    Their focus is prevention — to try to intervene in an at-risk child’s life before he gets into serious trouble. Rather than snatching children out of the fire, they try to keep them from getting into the fire in the first place.
    “They are still pretty singed when they get here,” Day commented. “Some of them got pretty close to the fire.”
    What happens after a resident turns 18?
    “Many of them still have no families to go back to, or resources,” Day said.
    Like a family, Patrick Henry is still interested in them and doesn’t just leave them to sink or swim. It provides transitional services to help the former residents make the transition to work or school. The organization helps provide them with apartments and mentorships, and have scholarships available for those headed to college.
    “We’re committed to these kids,” he said.
    Along with the homes, Patrick Henry operates a counseling service in Lynchburg, called Hope for Tomorrow. The counseling is available to residents and people in the community. It provides premarital and marriage counseling, as well as divorce recovery counseling. They can also counsel people who are having trouble with their children.
    Day said that the sooner somebody intervenes in the life of an at-risk child, the less damage is done. With that in mind, Day is working on implementing a dream, long held by Patrick Henry, of providing outreach services and summer camps. He said that the organization has the resources to do this, the programs just have to be designed.
    “You can do a lot in the life of a child in one week of summer camp,’ he said.
    According to Day, Patrick Henry Boys & Girls Plantation will be 50 years old next year. It got started when descendants of Patrick Henry donated 500 acres of land that had been part of Henry’s plantation. Day said that they were looking for two memorials for the famous Virginian. One is Red Hill, Henry’s home. The other was intended to be a living memorial.
    “Because of his love of children and his Christian faith, they decided a ministry to children would be a good memorial to him,” Day said.
    The fact that this children’s ministry takes no government funding was also a feature from the beginning, a nod to Henry’s belief in limited government.
    Dan and Kelly Wolfanger are the house parents at the girls’ facility in Bedford. Their ability to work with other local agencies and organizations is what they love about the area.
    “That’s why I love to be in Bedford,” Kelly said. “Everybody helps everybody else out.”
    She’s a great fan of Bedford Science and Technology Center (BSTC). Kelly said that, although college scholarships are available to the girls going to college, not all will go. BSTC has programs to offer them. Motivating the girls, and instilling a sense of self discipline is also vital, and Kelly said that some of her girls have greatly benefited from Major Bill Brown’s JROTC program.