Jessie and Matt Chilson have served at Kennedy Home as cottage parents since 2016. Jessie laughs when she tells how she and Matt came with their home church group for a mission project and decided to stay. The couple serve in Aydlett Davis Cottage caring for a group of boys. One of the boys is 14-year-old Ron.
“We try to make every boy’s birthday special,” Jessie says. Ron’s birthday is December 12. “Ron asked for meatloaf and coconut cake. I’ve never made either.”
Ron’s cottage mom didn’t back down from the challenge. She decided to tackle the meatloaf but have Matt go to a store bakery and buy an already-baked coconut cake. Simple.
Matt went to every store in Kinston and surrounding community grocery stores. There was no coconut cake to be found.
“I asked Matt to pick up the ingredients; I would make the cake, too,” Jessie says.
The meatloaf was a success. The cake turned out to be delicious. She nestled 14 candles into the bed of coconut on top. Everyone in the cottage gathered around, Jessie struck the first chord, then Matt and the boys joined in the chorus: “Happy birthday, dear Ron. Happy birthday to you!”
“It was a good day for Ron,” Jessie remembers. “He later told me the cake was the first homemade birthday cake he had ever been given – he said it was the best cake he had ever eaten.”
Ron was born in Manhattan and at age two he and his older sister were placed into foster care.
“We were moved around a lot, different foster homes,” Ron confides. “Sometimes we were together, and other times we weren’t. We didn’t have any relationship with our birth mom and dad. Things were all over the place until my aunt adopted us.”
Everyone was hopeful. But the shadows of the past crept in as Ron grew older. He said tension between he and his aunt gave way to arguing, and before he came to Kennedy Home a little more than two years ago, the arguing turned to fighting.
“It became difficult for everyone,” Ron says. “The change was good.”
Things were better at Kennedy Home immediately, despite the fact that it was the first time Ron had lived with so many people or been challenged with so many expectations.
“I adjusted because I was given lots of support,” Ron says. “My cottage parents and my cottage mates helped me.”
Ron gets along with the other boys in his cottage, but shares that he prefers spending time reading and doing puzzles. He also has an extensive collection of Star Wars themed Lego sets.
“Ron is showing leadership abilities in our cottage,” Jessie Chilson says. “Things can be up in the air, and at the right moment, he steps forward and encourages the other boys to make the right decision. He has a good head on his shoulders.”
Last fall, Ron was his middle school’s football team manager and traveled with the team to away games. He is running track for the first time as part of a community program this spring and looks forward to possibly running in high school.
The A-B student plans on attending college when he graduates high school in four years. After college, he hopes to join the U.S. Air Force to become a pilot.
“It would be difficult not to think about God while living in our cottage,” Ron jokes. “We have devotions at breakfast and dinner and we attend Rivermont Baptist Church in Kinston regularly. We are also involved in our youth activities at church.” This, too, is a positive change.
Jessie is quick to express her pride in Ron. “Our hope is that all the boys in our care will do as well as Ron.”
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