A call from the mountains
At the turn of the last century, southwest Virginia was a remote, rugged and poor place. The Rev. George Floyd Rogers was serving as the rector of Emmanuel Episcopal Church in tiny Covington at the time. Reverend Rogers saw a need for education and religion in this rural area, and in 1906, he began conducting roadside church services. Later, he started a school and Sunday school in an old log cabin.
He left the Emmanuel parish in 1911 to serve a parish in Lynchburg, but by that time, a schoolhouse and chapel had been built, and he named the humble institution “The Industrial School and Farm for Mountain Children and Home for Homeless Boys.” C.C. Thurber became the superintendent, with Rev. Rogers still active as the president of the Board of Trustees, and 40 youngsters called this home by 1916.
A growing need, and a growing campus
The coming of World War I saw a host of social upheavals, and with times hard, many locals were unable to support their families. Under a new superintendent, Dr. Reinhold Rogers, appeals for contributions and borrowed funds allowed significant expansion and a move to a new village of six cottages and a dining hall. During the depths of the World War in 1919, there were 140 students at the school. Dr. Rogers led the school through more hard times during the Depression and World War II. Robert F. Burrowes became director in 1946, and he oversaw the completion of the first modern cottage and a building program that lasted over 20 years.
With help from Col. Parry W. Lewis, Bob Burrowes started a comprehensive fundraising system so that future construction wouldn’t incur large indebtedness. And when Travis Tysinger became executive director in 1974, he continued to build on that self-sufficiency.
Established, sound, and looking to the future
Donnie E. Wheatley took over as director in 1985 and continues in that role. He has a special commitment to the continuing success of Boys Home because he grew up as a student here, and that experience made a lasting impression. Donnie continues to build on the work of earlier leaders, and today, Boys Home is as secure as the mountains it’s nestled in. But continuing social, economic and technological change means that this institution is as important as ever. And we’ll continue to face the challenges faced by boys at risk, and meet their needs on their journey to becoming successful men.