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Couple's gift helps build foster home in relative's memory

Star’s parents were advised to put her away and forget they ever had her; instead, they never stepped away from caring for their oldest daughter. The demands became part of their daily life. Appointments with the best psychiatrists, private school accommodations, and the stark behavior that included outbursts and disappearances were never cause for their love to wane.

“Star was diagnosed at 13 with mental illness—schizophrenia,” Marsha says. “She heard voices all the time. There was never any rest. We knew Star would need lifelong care.”

Amidst the fragility of daily life, Star found solace with paper, pencil, and paint. She excelled, drawing the awe of her high school art teacher who often exhibited the student’s artwork. Her mother helped Star with her academics, assuring she graduated high school.

Marsha, the youngest of three siblings, found herself spending more and more time with Star. As small children, the two sisters shared a bedroom. When her mother could not be there for Star, it was Marsha who stepped in, becoming the one in the family who began to take care of Star.

“It amazed me,” Marsha says. “I believe God gave me an ability to uniquely care for Star and anticipate her needs.”

In 1985, Marsha became Star’s guardian. She was only 30 years

old. To protect her from herself, Star was declared mentally incompetent. Now, Marsha and her husband Tom Huskey focused

their attention on caring for Star’s daily needs.

“I advocated for her and made sure she received the best possible care,” Marsha recalls.

“The Lord helped me as I found the best doctors and psychiatrists—always leading me to the right people to help her.”

In the 1990s, Star was one of the first to be admitted to a group home for the mentally ill in North Carolina. An effective communicator, she was able to assist the others with whom she lived.

“There was one resident in the group home who was verbal but could not be understood,” Marsha remembers. “Star understood him and would translate what he said. She was concerned for him and wanted to help him.”

Marsha and Tom moved to the mountains in 1997. The couple moved Star to be close to them. She continued to live in a group home but had living quarters in Marsha’s home. When Alternative Living Family (AFL) homes came into existence, she moved to an AFL home. She was living in an AFL home when she passed in 2015 at the age of 68.

“Her AFL provider, Florence, was born and trained to work with the mentally ill in France,” Marsha says. “Florence got my sister to do things I could never have been able to do. This was important after Star was diagnosed with advanced endometrial carcinoma.”

Star’s parents had taken steps to provide for Star. With Marsha’s help, she was self-supported throughout her life. Just as her younger sister had cared for Star when she was alive, Marsha would now manage her assets after her passing. “The money was not mine,” Marsha asserts. “I felt the Lord had plans. My parents would have wanted to do something in honor of Star’s life.”

For years, Marsha and Tom supported the ministry at Broyhill Home in Clyde. She contacted Linda Morgan. She told her about Star’s passing and her desire to do something meaningful in her sister’s memory. Linda thought about River Hill Refuge. The project needed a large lead gift to construct one of the three foster family homes.

“I knew helping children would be something Star and

Mother and Father would have liked,” Marsha says. “It matched Star’s love for children and Mother’s commitment to their wellbeing. Constructing Starlite Home through Star’s estate was a perfect match.”

In early 2021, brothers Wes and Jay Westmoreland had donated a parcel of their late father’s River Hill Angus Farm to Baptist Children’s Homes and made a gift to construct three foster homes. Named River Hill Refuge, the Westmorelands’ efforts provided the momentum needed for the project. Starlite Home is one of the three that will have a set of Christian foster parents to care for as many as five children at a time. Construction of Starlite Home, The Westmoreland Family Home, and Tucker Home was completed this year.

“Despite the darkness these children have lived through, I want them to experience hope—a hope for a better future,” Marsha says. “May every child who walks through the door of Starlite Home truly blossom.”

Artistically piecing quilts for each child entering care at the River Hill Refuge homes, Marsha remembers the lessons her mother taught her: Care for your neighbors and give to those who are less fortunate and in need. Their mother’s generous spirit will impact the lives of children for years to come. Star would have loved it.

Learn more about River Hill Refuge or make a gift that will impact the life children who will live at these homes in Cleveland County and other Baptist Children's Homes locations.

Written by Jim Edminson, Editor of Charity & Children

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