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30-year effort yields home for 5 special needs men

RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–To the casual observer, it simply appeared to be an elegant Sunday afternoon gathering in the backyard of a lovely home in Richmond, Va. The tables were laden with enticing confections, and the smiling guests were warmed by a perfect sunny day.
However, this celebration was 30 years in coming. “We have waited for this day for a long time,” said Audrey Davis who stood beside her husband.
The couple, joined by 140 other guests, was there to celebrate a triumph in faith — the dedication of a new home for developmentally disabled men. Here five special needs men will make a new home and a new life through the Virginia Baptist Children’s Home’s Developmental Disabilities Ministry.
The new home did not come without a price. It required an effort beyond that expected by families accustomed to doing battle for the rights and needs of their children. In 1968, frustrated by limited long-term care options for the mentally retarded, a group of Richmond-area families formed the Virginia Society for Mentally Retarded Children, now known as the Virginia Society, to address this need.
In the intervening years, the group faced challenges including loss of membership due to sickness and death, the aging of their children, community resistance to potential homes and the weariness and frustration of a 30-year fight. Yet those who persevered felt rewarded in full by a beautiful two-story home situated in a quiet Richmond neighborhood, which embodied their three-decade dream.
During the Sept. 20 dedication service, a host of speakers lauded the efforts which resulted in the fruition of this dream. Betty Burris, developmental disabilities director for the Baptist agency, warmly recalled that “God’s love just overflow[ed] sometimes” through the collaborative volunteer efforts and contributions of numerous churches, individuals and businesses who took ownership in the project, along with the Virginia Baptist Foundation.
Tim Norman, executive director of the foundation, stated, “We exist to try to help you as families to make the necessary financial and legal [decisions] that you face, that you are all too familiar with.”
Norman added, “We want to partner with the parents and the Children’s Home” toward raising additional funds to help with the operating costs of not only this group home but several others around the state. “And we are busy about that task. … We believe it is a worthwhile ministry, and we are delighted to have a small part in it.”
The Gayton Road Home, as part of the Baptist agency’s Developmental Disabilities Ministry, is one of the many ministries which benefits from each September’s Alma Hunt Virginia Missions Offering.
Bowling is public relations director for Virginia Baptist Children’s Home and Family Services in Salem, Va.

    About the Author

  • Lisa Bowling