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Community Celebrates River Hill Refuge, New Foster Homes



The sun rises on Saturday, April 27 like it has for millennia over the tree-lined First Broad River meandering through Cleveland County. A mist rises from the pastures on the hill where the late veterinarian Ted G. Westmoreland and his sons Wes and Jay raised nationally-acclaimed, award-winning Angus cattle. But this morning, the sun greets a new beginning on the hill. The trees, the pastures, the cattle are all there as they have been, but this morning the sunlight shines on three new foster homes—homes that will be used to transform the lives of countless disadvantaged children. Today, nearly 600 dignitaries, supporters, and friends gather on the hill for the dedication and ribbon cutting of River Hill Refuge (RHR), a ministry of Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina (BCH).


“Wes and I are humbled and delighted to welcome you to River Hill Refuge—a sanctuary of hope, healing, and transformation nestled in the heart of the River Hill Angus Farm,” Jay Westmoreland said.


Located near Shelby, NC, the five acres for the new ministry and the lead gift for the Westmoreland Family Home were provided by Ted’s sons. The brothers fondly remember the countless hours spent alongside their father, tending the cattle and working the land.


“We saw potential in the land and an opportunity to assist others who had not been blessed with the same upbringing we had,” Westmoreland continued.


River Hill Refuge consists of three homes dedicated to the care of foster children. The Westmorelands’ gifts created the momentum to begin raising the $4.3 million needed for the construction of the Westmoreland Family Home, Starlite Home, and Tucker Home.

The lead gift for Starlite Home was made by Marsha and Tom Huskey of Whittier in memory of Marsha’s sister Starr Edwards. The lead gift for Tucker Home was provided by Carolyn Tucker and her late husband Bob Tucker of Concord through the Tucker Heart, Soul, Mind, and Strength Foundation. Many others came together to make RHR a reality by generously giving of their time, talent, and treasure.


“As we all join to dedicate this property to God’s service,” Westmoreland added, “we are filled with hope and anticipation for the miracles that will unfold for those who will call this place home.”


River Hill Refuge - Shelby, NC - Baptist Childrens Homes

More than 10,000 North Carolina children have been removed

from their families and are in the custody of the North Carolina foster care system. Each River Hill Refuge home will have a BCH-recruited and state licensed set of foster parents who care for as many as five children at one time, providing a safe home to vulnerable children in Cleveland County and the surrounding area. The RHR foster parents care for the children the same way as other foster parents, except they live in the BCH-owned homes. The foster parents also have ongoing support from BCH’s foster care staff.


“This morning, my heart is bursting with joy over what has been accomplished,” BCH Chief Operating Officer Keith Henry shared. “The impact on children’s lives is immediate. Kids will be happy here. Kids will be safe here. But more importantly, the impact is eternal. The children who come to RHR will be introduced to the One who can change their eternity.”


Children come to RHR with little to nothing materially, having experienced tragedies many of us could never imagine. They come with hurt, insecurity, and confusion. They find a place where God’s arms are opened and they can experience His love.

With the addition of RHR, BCH now operates five homes serving needy children and teens in Cleveland County. Laura’s Homes, also a ministry of BCH, provides cottage care for boys and girls.


“Join me in giving glory and thanks to God for the great things He has done,” Westmoreland said, concluding his remarks. “Let’s applaud what He will continue to accomplish through River Hill Refuge.”


The program ended with a ceremonial ribbon cutting and tours of the homes.


To learn more about RHR, to volunteer, or to make a donation, please visit riverhillrefuge.org


Written by Jim Edminson, Charity & Children Editor


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