Service at the heart of Shawn Anderson's work

March 1, 2021

Shawn Anderson“The honor of serving the nation as a whole is only amplified with the ability to directly serve the communities that I am a part of, through the National Guard. When conducting certain operations in the state of North Carolina, I can see a clear line of how our actions could directly affect people that I see every day, in my civilian life, even at B&GH. Knowing that I am able to give back to the community in this way is a great blessing.”

These were some of the thoughts B&GH Cottage Life Coach Shawn Anderson shared after a recent call-up by the National Guard to deploy.

As one of the staff on the residential campus who works directly with the youth in the cottages on a daily basis, Anderson does his best to make his departures as easy as possible for the youth.

“I always like to do my best to let the kids know when I will be leaving and share with them whatever information I can,” Anderson said. “We will, typically, have a small group so the children can express their thoughts and feelings and we talk about how we can effectively deal with those thoughts and feelings in a healthy way.”

The transition doesn’t end there, with Anderson providing the youth with some additional guidance for their time on campus while he is fulfilling his National Guard duties.

“They will each have their own missions to complete while I’m gone that I will be depending on when I get back,” he said. “These are missions such as making sure the cottage stays clean and that everyone maintains their positive behaviors while I’m gone. The staff I have had the wonderful opportunity of working with has been very supportive in explaining to the kids why I have to leave sometimes and surrounding the issue with positivity, also. Big shout out to the Optimist/Rotary team!”

The Optimist/Rotary team is one Anderson joined as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic eliminating his business’ primary source of revenue.

“While we were developing strategies to ‘survive the shutdown’ and fortify our organization for the future, many of us realized that we would, once more, need to make the transition from employer to employee,” Anderson said.

His commitment to service led him to explore opportunities aligned with his past work.

“I sought out a position in which I felt I would be able to help people in a similar way to what we were doing through our organization,” Anderson said. “After numerous recommendations to look into B&GH, I did my research – and, boy, I am glad I did. I felt that this was a place in which I could make a lasting positive impact on the lives of young people that are dealing with situations and childhood trauma similar to my own. That, it has been.

“In this way, I have been extremely grateful for many of the complications coronavirus has introduced, personally, into my life,” he continued. “These complications have proven to be catalysts for growth, change, experience, and becoming part of the B&GH community which has allowed me to continue changing lives in a positive way.”

It is not surprising given Anderson joined the Army right out of high school. He was introduced to his first Guard unit based in Friedens, Pa., in 2018. He relocated and joined the NC Guard in 2020.

“It has been clear since Shawn joined us that he is truly committed to making a difference for the children,” said Chief Program Officer Donna Yalch. “He finds ways to connect with each youth to help them along their healing journey.”

One way Anderson has connected with the youth is through their spiritual development activities, even participating in campus worship services as part of that connection. When asked what skill he’s learned from his service with the Guard that best helps him with his work with youth the answer was simple.

“Teaching the children leadership skills exposes them to their strength and influence, which instills a natural desire to explore and harness these energies,” Anderson said. “Truly effective leaders must be compassionate and considerate. They must be structured and disciplined, compassionate and decisive, patient and understanding, practical and logical. They must have honesty, courage, humility, and integrity. They must be loving listeners and lifelong learners. They must be selfless.

“Above all, however, they must have a strong sense of purpose. Everything begins with purpose – including the motivation to better yourself,” he said. “If we can keep purpose in focus, our personalities can follow. I believe teaching and exemplifying strong leadership skills can help the children keep their purpose in focus and behaviors in check.”

B&GH President/CEO Ricky Creech sees the positive impact Anderson’s presence has on the youth.

“Shawn brings such a positive energy that has reassured the children throughout his time here,” Creech said. “We are grateful that he found us to be part of his journey. He is a true example of someone who provides an environment of care where health, healing and hope can be experienced every day.”

The positives extend in both directions, according to Anderson.

“I would like to extend a huge ‘thank you’ to everyone I have had the privilege of meeting and working with at B&GH,” Anderson said. “Here, I have met many genuine and talented individuals who all share one common desire – one common purpose – love. Loving God. Loving people. Changing lives with that powerful tool of love. If we can share that love with one another as much as we desire to with the children, our impact will be insurmountable.

“Regardless of what the future holds for me, I intend on having a lifelong relationship of love, support and contribution with the B&GH community and many of it’s amazing members that I have met in my time here.”

About Boys and Girls Homes of North Carolina

Boys and Girls Homes of North Carolina, Inc., has been helping children since 1954. Since then, more than 7,500 children have benefitted from the services of the not-for-profit, 501(c)3 agency. Its mission is to provide a comprehensive array of services for children and youth who have been removed from their homes due to abuse, neglect or other family dysfunction. B&GH offers adoption, family and therapeutic foster care, free children’s therapy, as well as residential care on the campus at Lake Waccamaw. The campus features a SACS-accredited school with a middle and high school curriculum, vocational education, recreation facilities, farm, chapel and cottage life. As many as 320 children are cared for through the residential, community-based services, and school program provided by B&GH at any given time. B&GH operates its program, services and activities in compliance with federal nondiscrimination laws. B&GH is nationally accredited by the Council on Accreditation.