• By Elaine Brelsford
  • Posted:
  • Events, News

Mission Group Beautifies the Boys Home Campus

Summer at Boys Home is a time for summer camps, visits home to see family, and welcoming new friends to campus! This past week, June 23 – 27, Boys Home hosted a group of five people from St. Michael and All Angels’ parish in Columbia, South Carolina. The group had a productive week building raised beds, helping build a tool shed, and painting several fences on the farm, including the fence around the riding ring.

Constructed in 2017 to provide a safer surface for students to learn to ride on, the fence around the riding ring remained unpainted as the newly cut lumber dried. Now, thanks to the mission group’s hard work, the riding ring and the surrounding fences on campus look beautiful and fresh.

Father Charles Smith, rector at St. Michael and All Angels’ parish, learned about Boys Home from his great-aunt, whose husband had been a Boys Home resident. Several years ago, wanting to inspire his congregation to become more mission-minded, Father Charles suggested a mission trip, and Boys Home was a natural choice. This year’s group included three new participants, all of whom were happy to be here, learn more about Boys Home, and meet some of the students.

Visiting for the past several years, one thing Father Charles appreciates is seeing the boys grow and mature over time. While staff members recognize and celebrate students’ growth on a daily basis, visiting once each year brings a new perspective. Boys Home is grateful for that perspective, for the beautiful paint around the fences on the farm, and for such kind, friendly faces!

  • By Elaine Brelsford
  • Posted:
  • Events, News

Galilee Episcopal Mission Group Starts Summer With a Blast

           Boys Home students began their summer with a fun-filled week, thanks to a mission group from Virginia Beach. From Monday, June 17, through Friday, June 21, Galilee Episcopal Church hosted a full week of sports and fun on and off campus. The group, led by Marty O’Rourke, Duff McDuffie, and Nichole Farbod, included twelve members of the Galilee youth group, several of whom had participated in previous years’ mission trips to Boys Home.

           “I’m here because I was here two years ago, and I love sports, and I love helping people, and I heard this was a really good way to get involved with all that,” said Isabelle Weiss, a member of the group.

            Mornings during the week were devoted to sports. The group started with a variety of skill-building drills, and later everyone would participate in a game. Students learned the basics of rugby, lacrosse, and soccer; for some, this was their first introduction to one or more of the sports!

            As the temperatures warmed up in the afternoons, the boys and the mission group got to have some adventures in and around the area. Everyone had a great time kayaking on the Jackson River, staying cool at ACE Adventure Park in Beckley, and going down a huge slip ’n slide set up on the hill by the Wheatley Center.

            The week ended with an awards ceremony on Friday evening. Marty and the mission group recognized the students for their participation with a variety of awards, such as the “Heart of Gold” award. Some students were presented with a soccer ball.

            Boys Home boys really enjoyed their time with the mission group from Galilee. One resident described the week as “awesome and amazing,” and another already asked if they can stay for two weeks next year!

Soccer drills out on the field
Fun at ACE Adventure Park
  • By Lauren Hanna
  • Posted:
  • News, Uncategorized

2019 Boys Home Graduation and Awards Ceremony

Graduates left to right: Abe, James, and Frank

Boys Home of Virginia hosted their graduation coupled with their annual awards ceremony on June 14, 2019 at 2 p.m. in the Ben Parrott Dining Hall. The 2019 graduating seniors were Abe Ashebir, Frank Commue, and James McGill.

Prior to graduation and the awards ceremony, guests, staff, and students enjoyed a delicious meal outdoors prepared by the dining hall staff.

Graduation began with a processional of the three seniors, Executive Director Mr. Donnie E. Wheatley, Board of Trustees President Mr. James Cox, and Boys Home School Director Mrs. Teresa Johnson. The Boys Home Honor Code and Pledge of Allegiance were said and The Rev. Anne Grizzle followed with the invocation. Mr. Robert Trice, Boys Home alumnus and Director of Support Services, welcomed everyone. Mr. Mark Tembo, Boys Home alumnus, was the keynote speaker. Each graduate addressed the audience and expressed their appreciation to Boys Home and talked about their plans for the future. Mr. James Cox and Mrs. Teresa Johnson presented diplomas.

The annual awards ceremony followed. The awards ceremony gives Boys Home the chance to recognize all the accomplishments of the students over the past year. Accomplishments from on and off campus activities were recognized with awards ranging from school performance to community service. Many named awards and scholarships reward the students for the hard work they put forth while at Boys Home.

The awards began with the recognition of the late Carl E. Blacke Memorial Pool Tournament. On March 4, 2019, Boys Home lost a member of its family, Mr. Carl E. Blacke. Carl served in several roles during his 16 years at Boys Home, most recently as houseparent. One of Carl’s greatest loves was teaching the students and schooling staff on how to play pool. In honor of Carl and his many contributions to Boys Home, a tournament was held in his honor. The winner of the First Annual Carl E. Blacke Pool Tournament in the student bracket was Jordan Jackson. The winner in the staff bracket was Josh Brown.

Mike Nunnally, Hilltoppers basketball coach and Boys Home alumnus, handed out certificates and trophies to the 2018-2019 Boys Home Hilltoppers Varsity basketball team. The team included Abe Ashebir, Carlos Brown, Dau Dau, Terrance Harmon, James McGill, Sincere Peters, Sedigh Syila, and Philip Neville. Abe Ashebir and James McGill were awarded the 2018-2019 Captains’ Award. This award is given to individuals who lead by both their words and actions. The Coach’s Award was given to the player who exemplifies the character of a good teammate. That award was presented to Philip Neville. The Most Improved Player Award was given to Dau Dau. Lastly, the Lunch Box Award was given to the player who worked hard every practice and game. Carlos Brown was the recipient of that award.

Stephen Hodges, Tae Kwon Do instructor, handed out certificates of participation to John Smith and Sedigh Syila. Sage Custalow and John Mark Herring received yellow belts. Jude Dostal and Justus Dostal received purple belts. Khean Mikkelson and Finn Andersen received green belts.

The Rev. Anne Grizzle gave awards for Spiritual Life participation. The following students were volunteer readers at church or chapel: John Mark Herring, Jude Dostal, Diego Jones, Jason Felder, Darren Dudu, Mulu Slawta, James McGill, Shawn Young, Terrance Harmon, Abenego Commue, Finn Andersen, Christopher Harris, Frank Commue, Davin May, Sekou Ture, Justus Dostal, Khean Mikkelson, Sincere Peters, Andrew Roland, and Sedigh Syila. Next was the recognition for choir service at church or chapel. These students included Khean Mikkelson, Finn Andersen, Mulu Slawta, Phillip Scott, Abenego Commue, John Smith, Christopher Harris, and Christian Bass. The Acolyte Awards were presented to Jude Dostal and Justus Dostal. The chapel assistant and speakers were staff members Gay Turner and Dennis Calhoun. Music leaders and singers were staff member Louis and wife Sandy Sarratt. Chapel speakers included staff members Jason Bush, Austin Cole, Louis Sarratt, and Kelly Calhoun and students Frank Commue, Abe Ashebir, and Sincere Peters. Faithful weekly prayer was led by staff members Linda Gordon, Gay Turner, and volunteer Sandy Sarratt.

Boys Home School Principal Teresa Johnson presented the Academic Awards. Elementary level most improved student in reading was Justus Dostal. Elementary level most improved student in math was John Mark Herring. The top math student (non-graded) was Joshua Eng and the top reading student (non-graded) was Darren Dudu. Most improved student in middle school math was Jordan Jackson. Diego Jones was awarded with participation. Best math students were Mulu Slawta, Abenego Commue, and Cody Payne. Top grade in science was Mulu Slawta. Most improved student in science was Shawn Young. Top grade in social studies was Mulu Slawta and Abenego Commue. Most improved students in social studies were Epherem Morris and Davin May. Highest high school GPA was Abe Ashebir.  The final award for academics was presented by Teresa Johnson and Connie Back. The Accelerated Reader student who earned the most points and qualified to earn a brand new mountain bike was Diego Jones.

The Wilson Reading Program Awards were given to the students who put forth exceptional effort and perseverance in the program this school year. Volunteer reading teacher Ms. Signe Langschultz presented certificate of accomplishment awards to Jude Dostal and Justus Dostal. Certificate of achievement awards were presented to Joshua Eng and Frank Commue.

Next was the presentation of teacher of the year award by Mr. James Cox. The teacher of the year award was presented to Colonel Monroe Farmer. Mr. James Cox presented the houseparent of the year award to Aaron Smith of Greene Cottage. Recognition of employees of Boys Home for 25 years of service were presented to Jennifer Holestin and Alisa Hayslett, both of the Boys Home business office.

Art Awards were recognized next. The elementary winners in pastels for the Covington Women’s Club Art Contest were third place Justus Dostal, second place Jude Dostal, and first place John Mark Herring. The middle school winner for fourth-place color drawings, markers was Jordan Jackson. Second-place pastels was Terrance Harmon. First-place pastels was Shawn Young.

The theatrical awards were presented to Mulu Slawta, Jude Dostal, and Jordan Jackson.

Next were the Key Club awards. The Boys Home of Virginia Key Club is under the leadership of teacher Anita Proffitt. The club is sponsored by the Alleghany Highlands Kiwanis Club. Pam Berry, Kiwanis Club President, said a few words and recognized the Boys Home Key Club members. Anita Proffitt then presented the Boys Home of Virginia Key Club participation awards. The following students received certificates for satisfying requirements of the Key Club: Finn Anderson, Christian Bass, C.J. Calhoun, Abe Ashebir, Frank Commue, Dau Dau, Jason Felder, Chris Harris, James McGill, Loubens Mentor, Sincere Peters, Khean Mikkelson, Carlos Brown, Andrew Roland, Phillip Scott, Sedigh Syila, Christian Sergent, John Smith, Eason Thomas, Sekou Ture, and Andrew Wylie. Key Club Honorary Member was awarded to Abenego Commue. Key Club leader Anita Proffitt presented the next awards. The Key Club community service awards went to Frank Commue, James McGill, Carlos Brown, Phillip Scott, Jason Felder, and Christian Bass. The Outstanding Commitment to the Red Cross Blood Drive award was presented to James McGill. The Kiwanis Outstanding Service Scholarship Awards were presented to Abe Ashebir and James McGill.

Rick and Gay Turner, Center for Applied Trades teachers, presented students with certificates for work in the Center for Applied Trades classes. Sekou Ture was recognized as honorable mention for National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) core curriculum. He also received a Gerber multi-tool. Christian Sergent was awarded core student of the year for National Center of Construction Education and Research (NCCER). He also received a Ryobi 6-piece battery operated tool set. C.J. Calhoun received student of the year for Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC). He also was presented with a Ryobi 6-piece battery operated tool set.

The Development Department presented the Helping Hands Awards to students who helped with photo and/or video shoots and Valentine and Christmas cards. John Mark Herring, Justus Dostal, Terrance Harmon, and Diego Jones were the recipients of these awards. The Best Foot Forward Award was given to the student who gave excellent assistance with events on the Boys Home campus or the Boys Home Christmas Tree Farm. Christian Bass received this award.

Ms. Laura L. Manigault from the Episcopal Church Women of Southern Virginia recognized the Boys Home senior class, giving each student a gift. Boys Home seniors are Abe Ashebir, Frank Commue, and James McGill.

The Support Services Awards were presented by Director of Support Services Robert Trice. Christian Bass won the award for Tree Farm Worker of the Year. Christian Sergent won the award for Grounds Crew Worker of the Year. The Leadership-in-Action Award was presented to the senior who maintained excellent leadership skills during the two-day senior challenge. James McGill was the recipient of that award.

The Tice Awards were presented next. The Marie Lendrum Think About Award is intended to stimulate original thought. Participants pick an original quote and write about what it means to them. The winner of this award was Diego Jones. The Tice Environmental Award is presented in recognition of efforts to curb wastefulness, encourage creativity in recycling, and to sow seeds of conservation and respect for the things that really matter—God’s creatures, resources, and the beauty of the world. Participants were required to complete an environmental project and then write an essay about their work and what it meant to them. The winner of the Tice Environmental Contest was Watkins Cottage.

The Dabney S. Lancaster Community College Scholarship was presented by Anne Dean. Frank Commue was the recipient of this award.

The Glencairn Scholarship is awarded to high school seniors from Boys Home, Alleghany High School, Bath County High School, and Covington High School on the basis of merit in academic achievement, citizenship, leadership, extracurricular activities, and community involvement. This year the scholarship was for $8,000 per year for four years and was awarded to 11 students from the schools above. The Boys Home winner was Abe Ashebir.  

The 1st Lt. Joshua Charles Hurley Memorial Award was presented by his parents, Chuck and Christine Hurley. On November 1, 2003, Hurley lost his life while serving during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Hurley loved his family, life, friends, and serving his country. The recipient of this award was Abe Ashebir.

The Joseph D. and Hilda C. Dent Memorial Award was presented by Mr. I.B. Dent. This award is given in memory of Mr. and Mrs. Dent who were longtime supporters of Boys Home and who had a keen interest in education. Abe Ashebir won this award.

The David C. Hall Memorial Award was presented by Mrs. Sammie Brookman in memory of her brother. The winner of this award personifies his never-give-up attitude. The award went to Jude Dostal.

The Bill and Lang Wilson Scholarship Award, presented by Mr. Donnie Wheatley, was established to recognize the importance of a “helping hand” in critical junctions of one’s life. It also helps promote further education for a graduating senior while supporting Dabney S. Lancaster Community College’s mission. The award and scholarship was presented to senior Frank Commue.

The Matthew Foster Honorary Scholarship is given in honor of alumnus Matt Foster. He overcame many obstacles during his time as a student and grew from a rebellious teen to a self-confident young man who turned two years of high school into one to graduate on time. The winner of this award and scholarship was Frank Commue.

The Jhakee Avant Honorary Scholarship was presented by Mr. James Cox. Jhakee is a recent alumnus of Boys Home and established this scholarship to reward a senior who continually grew as a person in character, and in self-motivation during his time at Boys Home. The winner of this scholarship and award was James McGill.

The Jesus Loves You Scholarship was presented by Mr. James Cox. This scholarship was given by an anonymous donor who wished to recognize a graduating senior who will attend college and give glory to God. James McGill received this scholarship.

The Steven Rogers Memorial Award is given to a student who made significant progress in turning his life around. As a young man, Mr. Rogers struggled with a lot of difficulties, which are common to many young men. He turned his life around upon entering the military and continued to be successful once he started a career. The award was presented to Sekou Ture.

The Barry D. Mays Memorial Award is presented to a senior who is living in the experiential living apartment and shows the desire and ability to learn and perform skills of self-sufficiency. The recipient of this award was Abe Ashebir.

The Sam Cunningham Award is given to a Boys Home student participating in athletics with a high level of dedication and a positive attitude. The winner of this award was Terrance Harmon.

The Donald “Pete” Dimick Memorial Scholarship is the highest sports honor for a Boys Home student. Mr. Dimick was an outstanding athlete for Boys Home and Covington High School during his time as a student. The recipient of Mr. Dimick’s scholarship receives an all-expense paid week to a sports camp of his choice. The winner was Christian Bass.

The Madeline S. Mumford Memorial Scholarship is provided through St. John’s Episcopal Church in Chester, VA. The scholarship is to assist a young man pursuing higher education. The winner of this scholarship was senior Frank Commue.

The Berlin and Frances Lineberry Scholarship provides funding for a graduating senior who is pursuing higher education at a vocational or community college. The scholarship was awarded to James McGill.

The Shama Baggott Award was presented by Boys Home trustee Jim Scott and Boys Home supporter Edmund Davidson. They wished to recognize the perseverance demonstrated by alumnus Shama Baggott. He overcame a multitude of obstacles and charted a successful path through life. The recipient of this award was Christian Bass.

The final two awards of the night are among the highest honors for a Boys Home student. Those awards are the Michael Folland Award and the George Floyd Rogers Award. The Michael Folland Award is given to a senior who was involved in many aspects of life at Boys Home and was supportive of his peers while striving to reach his full potential. The Michael Folland award was presented to senior James McGill. The George Floyd Rogers Award is named in honor of the Boys Home founder. This honor is voted on by the staff and presented to the resident who by their spirit, example, and overall outstanding citizenship, exemplifies the ideals of Boys Home and its founder. The George Floyd Rogers Award was presented to senior Abe Ashebir.

Congratulations to all of the winners and thank you to everyone who continues to make success a possibility for these students. Boys Home of Virginia is proud of the accomplishments of all of the students, especially the graduating seniors, and wish them well in their future endeavors!

Boys Home Board of Trustees members Gerard Markham and James Scott present The Michael Folland Award to senior James McGill


Boys Home board president James Cox presents senior Abe Ashebir with The George Floyd Rogers Award

  • By Lauren Hanna
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  • Alumni, News, Uncategorized

Pete Nunnally Serves as Chaplain Intern at Boys Home this Summer

Boys Home is delighted to welcome Pete Nunnally to campus this summer. He is working on his field education internship from Virginia Theological Seminary. Pete brings a unique history to his service, as his father, Mike Nunnally, was a resident at Boys Home and currently the basketball coach. Pete also brings a wealth of experience as a teacher, mission director, and youth minister prior to going to seminary.

Pete brought his guitar along to a recent campfire, offering singing and story telling along with s’mores. During chapel over the last school year, he led the boys in singing “Wade in the Water” and told the story of his own faith journey. More recently, he has engaged the boys in making and praying with Anglican prayer beads. During the summer evenings, he is offering a sunset compline service. Pete brings a keen listening heart, eager engagement, and deep faith to his service at Boys Home.


A biography from Pete Nunnally:

I was born and raised in Sterling, Virginia, and grew up hearing stories of Boys Home from my father Mike, who lived at Boys Home from 1956-1963. After graduating from Bridgewater College in 2001, I taught middle school physical education for 6 years before moving to New Orleans in 2008 to rebuild houses with the Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana. While in New Orleans, I became the volunteer coordinator for the Rebuild Program and later, Program Director for Living With Purpose, an Episcopal Service Corps program. Upon returning to Virginia in 2014, I became Director of Spiritual Formation and Youth Ministries for St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Richmond until enrolling at Virginia Theological Seminary in 2017. I am passionate about God’s dream for our lives, good music, people, reconciliation, social justice, and building true community that shimmers with the hope of the Kingdom of God. My experience at St. George’s Camp at Shrine Mont taught me that all God’s children are part of the Body of Christ and worthy of dignity and love, while my time in New Orleans instilled in me a passion for racial reconciliation and systemic change. I am a cradle Episcopalian and am deeply thankful for the richness of our tradition and its commitment to a sacramental corporate prayer life and a textured individual spiritual journey in which we search daily for the sacred in places expected and unexpected. 


An entry from Pete Nunnally:

I remember wishing as a kid that I could grow up at Boys Home. The stories Dad told about Boys Home and its residents and staff were so alive and electric, as though somehow life here was just…more. I have been at Boys Home as a chaplain for two and a half weeks. I have also been at Boys Home since 1956, when, after becoming a ward of the state and a brief stint in foster care, my father was brought here. These two realities are slowly weaving into one narrative about dislocation, struggle, hope, and redemption.

On the evening of my first day here, after prayer time with Mrs. Turner, Mrs. Sarratt and Mrs. Gordon, chapel time with the boys, and discipleship groups with each cottage, we had dinner. Eating dinner in the dining hall, I couldn’t escape the feeling that I was sharing the space with my 14-year old father, a skinny kid with a bright smile and big dreams. I remembered the story he told about when they used to turn out the lights to sing happy birthday during meals. When the lights came back on someone’s head had spaghetti dripping all over it. Today this would garner a whole bunch of demerits.

Dusk spread over my first evening and I sat under the trees by the field and watched boys run and play. Laughter and shouts drifted across the field and through time. Thousands of boys have romped in this field as evenings fell, pale skies slowly darkening to deep mountain blue, like a friend who doesn’t want to go home. Star after star began to twinkle their nighttime hello, the same stars that have shined over so many lives and so many boys. This wasn’t just a beautiful summer mountain night. It was something…more.

In the days since my first evening, I’ve spent time with all the boys and met most of the staff. Things have changed since the 50s and 60s, and even since the 90s and 2000s, and they are also the same. The boys that are here have lived lives of disruption. The individual levels of disruption may vary, but this much is clear: Boys Home is, and always will be, a place where boys find stability, consistency, and love. A place where former Boys Home boys come back to work, and where the staff pour out themselves, their love, and comfort like the Spirit spreading over the watery chaos of creation. Indeed, something new is being created here. Boys Home seems to me at this early stage in my time here as a wellspring of hope for boys who may not have any. A place of healing for those carrying deep wounds. And a place where God’s presence twinkles over the mountains, ripples through the bends of Dunlap Creek, and sparkles across the field in muffled shouts as evening descends, waiting for the new day God has promised.

Chaplain Intern Pete Nunnally 


Alumnus and Basketball Coach, Mike Nunnally with son, Pete Nunnally

  • By Elaine Brelsford
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  • Events, News

Mission Group from Portsmouth Gets Things Done!

From Sunday, May 19, through Friday, May 24, Boys Home of Virginia hosted a fantastic group of volunteers on campus. The group consisted of six men from Trinity Episcopal Church, in Portsmouth, VA, led by Paul Radford. They arrived on Sunday in time for a picnic, had a short evening to relax, and then got right to work!

On Monday morning, the group began the restoration of an old fence around the cemetery in the lower field. With the help of Louis Sarratt, who is in charge of special projects at Boys Home, the group cleared the brush away from the site, disposed of the old chain-link fencing, righted the metal fence posts, capped them with wooden posts, and installed a gate and fence rails. Some volunteers even helped mill the fence rails!

The connection with Trinity in Portsmouth began several years ago, when Boys Home executive director Donnie Wheatley visited the church to spread the word about Boys Home. His visit led to a dialogue with the pastor, and later on led to a mission group traveling to Covington to volunteer on campus. Paul Radford was one of the first to attend, and he hasn’t missed a trip since.

“I just fell in love with Boys Home,” he says. In his five years of volunteering, he’s helped with repairing buildings on the farm, fencing, painting, rebuilding bleachers, and various garden and farm projects. This year’s group is primarily made up of retirees, four of whom have attended trips in previous years. Cameron Ballinger rounded out the group as the youngest participant, providing some new energy and earning volunteer hours toward his high school graduation next year. Boys Home is especially grateful for such dedicated help!