Louis Sarratt has joined the staff of Boys Home. Originally from Deep Creek, Virginia, he served in the Air Force and was enrolled in the Navy Reserve for 20 years. Louis and his wife, Sandra, have recently relocated to Covington where he will be assigned special projects on campus. Sensing that God has drawn them here for a purpose, Louis states, “In coming here, we are fulfilling what we know we had to do for God. God had something here to give back to these boys through us.” Students and staff at Boys Home welcome Louis and his wife to the community and wish him well as he settles into his new duties.
Kendall Kessinger has joined the staff of Boys Home as a houseparent. A 2014 Alleghany High School graduate, Kendall received an associate’s degree in instrumentation last May. Kendall became uniquely acquainted with Boys Home when a Boys Home resident entered his English class in 7th grade. Kendall and this new student, Milliyon Fesseha, became fast friends and remain best friends to this day. Milliyon also works at Boys Home as a houseparent, so the two young men now find themselves coworkers. Kendall has five years’ experience working at the Virginia Elks Lodge Youth Camp, which is where he learned that he enjoyed working with youth. Of his role at Boys Home, Kendall states, “I want to be a role model and build a bond with the kids here.” Kendall speaks admirably of his relationships with his three brothers. At Boys Home, he hopes to “set examples based on what I’ve learned while living with my brothers.” Kendall has aspirations of someday coaching football, baseball, and basketball. Students and staff at Boys Home welcome Kendall to the community and wish him all the best as he assumes his new duties on campus.
Aaron Smith meant to be a cartoonist. By his mid-twenties, he was running with the wrong crowd and working on getting a record deal in the rap industry. That is, until his aunt persuaded him to leave the northeast and move to Covington, Virginia, to get a fresh start.
Aaron has spent over five years as a house parent at Boys Home of Virginia, fulfilling a calling that has pulled him in a totally new direction. He uses his background in art, music, and sports to relate to the young men he mentors. He also comes with experience in the trades of sheet metal and print shop technology. His growing up years were spent between New Jersey and the Bronx, as well as visiting family in Philadelphia. When he works with residents who come from difficult backgrounds, he assures them that they don’t need to be tough at Boys Home. He encourages them to drop the tough exteriors and learn to be themselves in an environment where it is safe to do so.
Aaron admits that the most difficult part of the job is when a student gets discharged. “Boys Home gives chances,” he says. However, when it is decided that a student should be discharged, he assists them while packing their bags, using that as an opportunity to encourage them about their future and the importance of making solid choices.
When asked what he wants for the students at Boys Home, Aaron doesn’t hesitate to answer, “To be able to leave here and be successful, but to also know how and when to ask for help. I want them to be someone who can cook, clean, and know how to work as part of a team. I want them to be independent and to be able to show what they’ve learned here.”
Aaron demonstrates teamwork himself by helping new students and staff acclimate to the environment on campus at Boys Home. Soon after he joined the staff, his grandfather died. When he talks about that personal experience, he says, “I see it as a family thing here at Boys Home. Everyone was there for me. Everyone showed me love and reading the books of Corinthians calmed me down.” Aaron clearly steps in to offer words of encouragement to both students and staff.
When asked how he stays so positive, Aaron simply explains, “I come to work and surround myself with good people.” In his spare time, it turns out that he continues to write music. And art? While he may not be a cartoonist, he pursues the art of growing boys into successful young men. Some would venture to say that his is art of a higher form.
Boys Home of Virginia has hired Colleen Urffer in the Development Office.
Colleen grew up in Massachusetts, but spent several years working as a seasonal wildland firefighter in various parts of the country. More recently, she worked for Habitat for Humanity in Woodland Park, CO, where her husband worked as a wildland firefighter. This winter, the couple relocated to the Alleghany Highlands.
Colleen has a bachelor’s degree in International Relations at Boston University. She received her master’s degree at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, in Public Administration, and earned a graduate certificate in Nonprofit Management.
Colleen first learned of Boys Home after moving to Lewisburg, West Virginia, a few months ago. She states, “I was looking for a job on the internet when I stumbled across Boys Home. The job seemed like a good fit with my experience, but I quickly learned that Boys Home is much more than just a job. Everyone has been so kind and welcoming. I enjoy being on the campus with the students and staff. Boys Home is just a cheerful place,” says Colleen with a smile. Colleen primarily will be involved with spearheading special events at Boys Home.
Pastor Anne Grizzle has joined the staff of Boys Home of Virginia as Chaplain.
Anne grew up in Staunton, VA, and attended Emmanuel Episcopal Church. Growing up, she heard about Boys Home from her parents who were supporters.
Anne is a Harvard graduate where she studied Psychology. She earned a Masters in social work at Columbia University and has studied, practiced, and taught family therapy. She is also a spiritual director and retreat leader. Most recently, she attended Sewanee for theological studies and was ordained as Episcopal priest on Epiphany, 2018. Answering a question about why she chose ministry she stated, “This was a call from God after a time of prayer.”
When asked what she looks forward to most about working with Boys Home students she smiled warmly and said, “I look forward to getting to know them better and helping them grow in their faith, both individually and as a community.”