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BCH's unique partnership helps university students

Guests to the grand opening of HOMEBASE on February 9 at Western Carolina University (WCU) in Cullowhee were greeted by students wearing purple polo shirts emblazoned with the HOMEBASE logo. The students were all smiles as they toured attendees around the newly renovated building.

“I am seeing all I hoped come to life before my eyes,” HOMEBASE student leader Sophie Calhoun said addressing the audience of some 150. “This facility embodies all we could have dreamed. The University and Baptist Children’s Homes (BCH) are providing students of at risk populations a home. It is a place where students who often feel alone can find community and rest when life becomes stressful.”

HOMEBASE director Jim Dean said the facility and program was designed for students who have been wards of the state, orphaned, aged out of foster care, homeless, or otherwise unsupported. “It is our mission to provide the support these student need to succeed.”

The former Baptist Student Union building now features two large meeting areas, a full kitchen and food pantry, laundry facilities, and emergency housing for students when needs arise.

WCU provost and vice chancelor for academic affairs Alison Morrison-Shetlar said the unique partnership between the University and BCH brings innovative ways to reach this underserved group of students.

“It has been like stars aligning – everything fitting together,” Morrison-Shetlar said. “Today, we celebrate HOMEBASE and the bringing together of two well-respected institutions – Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina and Western Carolina University.”

Lowell Davis, WCU’s Assistant Vice Chancelor for Student Success, has been a driving force behind HOMEBASE. He works closely with students who struggle to graduate.

“Lowell goes way beyond any measure of expectation,” Morrison-Shetlar said. “With his big heart, he reaches out to students at every point of need.”

Davis told the group at the grand opening, “We are all here to help someone.” He said that HOMEBASE came from seeing the needs of students who struggled with little or no family support.

“It became a driving force and near to my heart.” Davis said. “Working with students like Sophie and then making the connection with Baptist Children’s Homes, I could see HOMEBASE as a viable, positive solution.”

BCH president/CEO Michael C. Blackwell said HOMEBASE is a partnership of people who share a vision of making a difference “for years to come in the lives of these students.”

“Students who face challenges can falter and struggle to reach their goals,” Blackwell said. “But they can also be resilient, stare down their hardships and not give up. At HOMEBASE they can worry less, achieve more, graduate, and be proud of who they are.”

Major funding for HOMEBASE has been provided by Sharon and Phil Drake, the Baptist State Convention of NC, The Community Foundation of Western NC, and the WCU Baptist Student Union Alumni Association.

“I’m humbled by the outpouring of dedication and generosity of everyone who has made HOMEBASE possible,” Calhoun said in her closing remarks. “You have shown me what can happen when people, with an incredible amount of compassion, see the needs of others and go into action.”

For more information about the HOMEBASE ministry, contact Jim Dean at 828-293-4660. Learn more about the services BCH has to offer by going to

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