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Brothers go from homeless to hopeful

October 31, 2014

By J. Blake Ragsdale

Thomas points his toes toward the sky as he swings. The eight-year-old laughs soaring higher and higher into the autumn air.

Inside the cottage that sits just a few yards away, twelve-year-old Jonathan practices on the living room piano. Jonathan, who has just begun lessons, carefully plays the familiar notes of “Happy Birthday.”

The two brothers live at Mills Home in Thomasville, and for them, today is a normal day. “Normal” would be the last word used to describe their lives before coming to Baptist Children’s Homes’ (BCH) oldest campus.

Thomas and Jonathan’s parents separated, and their mother moved out of state. The boys were left solely in the care of their father who struggled to provide for his children. Eventually, the trio were homeless.

“For awhile we slept in a church,” Jonathan recalls.

They moved around staying in a variety of indigent shelters. In their most desperate times, the small family was forced to make do.

“My dad didn’t have a lot of money,” Thomas confides. “Sometimes we slept under a bridge and stuff.”

Eventually, the Department of Social Services became involved and contacted the brothers’ grandparents, Craig and Kathy. The couple gladly took their grandsons into their home, but they knew their health and age would make it impossible for them to care for the boys long-term.

“My husband and I are on a fixed income, and we both have a lot of medical issues,” Kathy explains. “The boys wanted to be involved in sports and
a lot of different activities that we could not afford to give them. It hurt us to have to tell them ‘no.’”

Craig and Kathy are members of Long Shoals Baptist Church in Lincolnton, a church that has long supported BCH. With the assistance of their pastor, Reverend Kenneth Gibson, the couple reached out to BCH for help.

In June 2014, Thomas and Jonathan moved to Mills Home and lived in Bright-Brown Cottage. Bright-Brown is an emergency care cottage and provides immediate care for children.

“Their coming to BCH has been a blessing to me and my husband,” Kathy says. “They’re my boys now, and I’m going to do what’s best for them even though I can’t have them with us all the time.”

Two weeks after arriving, the boys moved from Bright-Brown to Alumni Cottage, a cottage for boys with more long-term needs.

“I didn’t know what to expect when we came here,” Jonathan admits. “I didn’t think I’d like it, but I came and started having fun. I’m still having fun.”

At Alumni, Thomas and Jonathan sleep in their own bedrooms and are provided with the comforts of a family home. “My houseparents do things for us,” Thomas says. “They like being kind.”

The houseparents, Shawn and Samantha Snipes and John and Glenda Mercer, take care of the brothers and the other boys living in the cottage. “They’re like regular parents. They are there for us all the time,” Jonathan says.

Since coming to Mills Home, Thomas and Jonathan have also learned that they can count on the kindness of churches and other BCH friends.

“It’s special when people bring us things,” Thomas says. “I feel happy because I get things I need like clothes.”

Jonathan agrees. “It makes me feel a little better inside. It shows that they have that much love for us.”

While the boys have settled into their new home, their relationship with their grandparents has grown and is as strong as ever. They see Craig and Kathy regularly and recently went on a weekend visit to celebrate Jonathan’s birthday as well as his “Paw Paw’s.”

“Jonathan has matured since coming to BCH. I can tell that,” Kathy observes. “And Thomas is so full of himself. He’s so happy and giggly.”

The times weren’t always happy for Thomas, Jonathan and their grandparents, but the smiles have since returned to everyone’s faces. As Kathy says, BCH has provided them “hope.”

“There is always something going on for them at Mills Home, and they are with other children just like them,” Kathy says. “They feel like they are in the right place – the place where God wants them to be.”

You can help make hope possible for children like Thomas and Jonathan by making a gift to Baptist Children's Homes of North Carolina. Please give online at to help immediately.