Stories

Putting faces on the work we do

The long history of Boys Home is rich with stories of boys who found themselves here, and went on to live productive, successful, happy lives. We’re proud of that tradition, and here we’ll share some of what our students and alumni have to say about their experience. And we’ll also tell you more about the values young men learn here along the way.


 

Three Decades of Commitment

Donnie Wheatley, resident 1959 – 1966

By the time he turned 12, Donnie Wheatley tended toward trouble. His mother, a single woman raising five kids, was having difficulty making ends meet. Donnie initially went to live in a foster home, but the placement didn’t work out. Next, he went to Boys Home.

At first, Donnie didn’t want to be at Boys Home, and he ran away. Soon, though, he decided to use his time more constructively. He reached a particular turning point in eighth grade. “When I was in the eighth grade, Mr. Burrowes, who was director at the time, asked me if I’d given any thought to going to college.” Since no one in his family had graduated from high school, “It wasn’t on my radar screen,” Donnie says. But Mr. Burrowes gave him some good advice.

He said, “If you think you might like to go, you need to act like you want to go from the first day of high school.” That made an impression. Donnie began to pay more attention to his grades. In addition to being a good student, he participated in sports, student government, and worked at jobs on campus.

By applying himself, and with letters of recommendation from several Virginia Military Institute graduates, Donnie earned acceptance at the institute and a State Cadetship. After graduation, Donnie attended Virginia Tech and worked on a M.S. in electrical engineering. In 1971, he entered the Marine Corps, where his engineering degree allowed him to get into data processing. Resigning in 1974 as a Captain, U.S.M.C.R., Donnie went to work in the private sector for Proctor & Gamble. That didn’t stop his educational achievement, though. He earned an M.B.A. from Valdosta State College, and completed courses toward a Masters in Education through Georgia State University.

Years before, Donnie had talked with Mr. Burrowes about returning to Boys Home, but at the time his career was well on its way. Life and family, however, moved him toward a return. Donnie married his childhood sweetheart, whom he began dating in high school. The two of them and their family moved back to Covington, and Donnie went to work for Westvaco. They had been back in the area for three years when the position of executive director at Boys Home opened.

The associate director approached Donnie to apply for the position. “I didn’t feel like an electrical engineer with an M.B.A. fit the criteria, because they were looking for someone in the social services field,” Donnie says. But his commitment to the institution and his interest in its continued success impressed the search committee, and they chose to hire him. Donnie began his role as executive director in 1985; more than 35 years later, his commitment remains every bit as strong.

Donnie Wheatley with two residents

This is a story about a boy named Walter

Walter did not come to Boys Home by himself. He came here with his two brothers. Having his brothers also at Boys Home made the transition to residential living a little easier. Walter was a good student and, after leaving Boys Home, graduated from high school.

Inspired to continue his education, Walter attended college and received his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Virginia and a Master of Divinity from Virginia Theological Seminary.  He was ordained to the priesthood and served several parishes in Maryland and New Jersey.

Walter earned a Doctor of Ministry from Drew University. Although officially retired, he currently donates his expertise in assisting at a local parish, sharing worship duties, serving on the pastoral care committee and overseeing grief ministries. His wife is a real estate agent. They have three grown children and ten grandchildren.

This is a story about a boy named Larry

Larry arrived at Boys Home at the young age of 6. Small in stature, Larry was a favorite of the housemothers. He soon learned that studying was necessary for a good education. A student of Boys Home for 12 years, Larry participated in the baseball and basketball sports program. His shining star, however, was earning the first Eagle Scout award for the Boys Home Troop 6, with 35 merit badges.

All of the studying and hard work paid off, as he graduated from VMI in 1955, majoring in English.  He was the co-founder of the Boys Home Alumni Association and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1998 as a charter member. Larry was recognized for his significant accomplishments since leaving Boys Home.

Larry retired as Senior Vice President for Bank One Corporation. He resides in Kentucky, is an experienced golfer and has been a frequent visitor and motivational speaker at Boys Home.

This is a story about a boy named Jerimia

After several attempts to find a suitable foster home for him, Jerimia came to Boys Home at the age of eleven. His CASA worker initiated the placement at Boys Home where she thought he would receive the support, care and structure that he needed. It wasn’t until years later that this woman’s vision for Jerimia became a reality.

As a young child, Jerimia had been in charge of caring for his younger siblings and making his own decisions – he was a defiant, stubborn teenager that taxed the patience of many staff members at Boys Home.

As he matured, he found achievement in art, scouts and sports, later becoming an Eagle Scout from Troop 66 at Boys Home. He held an off-campus job, graduated from high school and became a responsible, dependable citizen.

After graduation, in 2001, he joined the U.S. Army as a truck driver. He remains in the armed forces today in movement control, currently on his 5th deployment to the Middle East. J.F. maintains contact with his biological family, but he is also a close member of the Boys Home family. Jerimia is married and has a young daughter.

This is a story about a boy named Donald

Donald arrived at Boys Home at a young age. Withdrawn and quiet, Donald found a place where he would be safe and nurtured. Originally from the Richmond area, Donald liked the Alleghany Highlands and flourished in the residential environment.

Donald particularly liked sports, art and scouts. He excelled in basketball and played on area  recreation and school teams. He became a Life Scout prior to his graduation and attended Bluefield College. After receiving a degree in Criminal Justice, Donald worked in regional juvenile detention centers.

Currently, Donald is a valued Boys Home staff member and house parent in the older boys’ cottage. His calm demeanor and I’ve-been-there-you-can-do-it approach helps young men in his charge find their own way to set goals and excel.

Donald is married and has 1 son and 2 step children.