The Christmas keepsakes packed in boxes and containers line the dining room wall of Frizzell-Higdon Cottage. Decorating is a “big” thing for the children living at Broyhill Home in Clyde. Soon the decorations will go up and every corner, every cottage wall, will be adorned with Christmas ornaments.
“Cruz really enjoys making the cottage look festive,” cottage mom Betty Porter says. “He’s the first to ask when are we putting up the tree!”
Sixteen-year-old Cruz has called Broyhill “home” for the last three years. He and his brother Junior came into Baptist Children’s Homes (BCH) care after the boys’ father was incarcerated and their grandmother could no longer care for them.
“I was placed in my first foster home when I was three months old,” Cruz says matter-of-factly. He recalls that when he was six, he and his brother went to live with their father and his girlfriend. Four years later after his father and girlfriend broke up, Cruz, Junior and the father moved in with their grandmother. Broyhill Home was the brothers’ next destination.
“When I came here, I just thought it was another place where someone decided to put me,” he says. “I waited to see where we would be moved again. Two weeks went by, and then two months, and no one came. Now, I’m glad to say this is my home.”
One of Cruz’s first goals was to improve as a student. “I felt, given the chance, that I could do better in school. Before coming to Broyhill Home, no one cared if I did my homework. I really struggled.”
Today, Cruz is an “A” student taking honors classes. The high school junior is an active band student participating in both marching band and concert band which includes symphonic and jazz bands. He plays the tuba and trombone and has received superior ratings in competitions.
“Some kids have a hard time adjusting,” Cruz says of life in the cottage. “I didn’t. Everyone was so nice and they respected me. I could tell they cared. They wanted to help me.”
The calendar on the dining table has important dates circled. There are Christmas parties and trips to Christmas programs highlighted. Churches have scheduled dates when members plan to visit and spread Christmas cheer bringing toys and other gifts for the children.
“Your first Christmas here can be overwhelming,” Cruz confesses. “Don’t get me wrong; it’s wonderful. But there are so many people who come and they are so kind. They don’t know us. But they buy gifts for us. It helps us realize just how much people care.”
According to Cruz, one of the most important Christmas days marked on the calendar is “cookie-making day.”
“I look forward to this day all year long,” Cruz admits. “Our cottage makes some of the best cookies. We all help – stirring, adding the ingredients, and of course taste testing as they come out of the oven.”
Cruz remembers vividly the day he accepted Jesus as his Savior when he was 10 years old.
He was attending a church in the neighborhood where he lived. A school friend invited him to a fall harvest party and then Cruz began riding the church bus each Sunday to attend Sunday school.
“One Sunday, it seemed everything the pastor was saying was directed to me,” Cruz says. “I was only ten, but I knew I needed to go up. I needed to say yes to Jesus.”
Cruz says he has grown in his relationship with God since coming to Broyhill Home. “When you come here, you’re surrounded by Christianity. It’s not forced on you, but everyone here tries to live like Jesus. It’s just part of life here.”
Cruz studies his bible and prays. He attends church weekly with the other children. He participates in the daily cottage devotions. Cruz says that his relationship with God is stronger than ever.
“I believe God placed me here,” Cruz attests. “That’s so important as I work out my future. I believe it is for a reason.”
Cruz plans to attend college after high school. He wants to become a high school band director. He has his eye on nearby Western Carolina University and wants to march with their band.
“But if I could do anything,” he dares to say, “my dream is to play with a symphony orchestra. Maybe in a big city like Chicago.”
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