Virtual Optimist Day shares stories of success

June 8, 2021

“We use every challenge as an opportunity for growth. We use the complaints to get stronger.”

These words were shared by one of the boys currently residing in the Optimist Cottage on the Lake Waccamaw Campus of Boys and Girls Homes of North Carolina during the Virtual Optimist Day held on Saturday, May 29.

“This was a nice opportunity for us to gather with our longtime supporters through Optimist Clubs,” said BGHNC Director of Community Engagement Dr. Mason Fuller Smith. “When we were planning this event we were uncertain what restrictions would be in place so we decided to go with a virtual gathering. It could not have happened without the support and efforts of District Governors Angela Iwaniuk and Betty Parker. This virtual event provided an opportunity for people who have never seen our campus and would not have had the opportunity to visit under normal circumstances.”

Among those taking advantage of the opportunity was Optimist International President Mark Weinsoff who was able to attend from his home in California.

“I want to congratulate the Optimists for their work in supporting these efforts,” said Weinsoff. “You (at BGHNC) have an amazing facility.”

Weinsoff and others in attendance received a virtual tour of Optimist Cottage led by Chief Mission Officer Ray Cockrell. While providing the tour, Cockrell also shared some updates on the campus.

“We continually work to meet the needs of children and families,” Cockrell said. “We have to change and grow and we are excited about the work we’re doing today. One of the biggest sources of excitement is the introduction of the Waccamaw Way, an intentional, therapeutic approach to all the activities and work we are doing with the youth and families.”

Chief Operation Officer Mike Garrell provided a tour of the Lake House for teen moms. He also shared an important story about the boys who reside in Optimist Cottage.

“We own the car wash across the street,” Garrell said. “We had been looking for ways to make it profitable while also providing opportunities to our youth. So we put it out to bid to the cottages on campus. Your Optimist boys created a business plan and won the bid. Since December, the core group of boys has been working that business plan and earning money through their efforts. They are currently revamping their business plan to do even better now that they have been through the process.”

Their efforts earned special praise from Weinsoff.

“I want to congratulate the work of the Optimist youth in the car wash business,” Weinsoff said. “It is impressive.”

BGHNC President/CEO Ricky Creech shared additional updates on the campus efforts as a leader in child welfare, particularly in regards to legislation with an implementation deadline of October.

“The Family First Prevention Services Act is the first major child welfare legislation in 20 years,” Creech said. “We have fully implemented all the federal guidelines and we are the only group home in North Carolina currently fully compliant.

“We are at the forefront of child welfare in North Carolina and are ahead of the curve,” Creech continued. “We have taken all of the steps to be a qualified residential treatment program and will be easily recognized in that way in the transition to Family First. We have two cottages that will be taking level 2 kids and are the first group home dually licensed for level 1 and 2.”

Creech credited the Optimists and other supporters for making these changes to meet the needs of children and families possible.

“The government funding provided does not cover the true costs of meeting the needs of the children and youth in our care,” said Creech. “Thanks to groups like you, we are able to meet the needs of children. You have saved lives through Boys and Girls Homes.”

Smith agreed, “Part of The Optimist Creed is to ‘make your optimism come true.’ Through your efforts with BGHNC, you are doing that. Your continuing partnership means so much to those boys, and the boys that came before and the boys that will come.”

 Plans are underway for a second Optimist gathering, this time on the campus.

“We have started planning for a fall work day on the campus when we will be able to gather safely and be of service to the campus,” said NC Optimist East District Governor Angela Iwaniuk. “It will be a great opportunity for connection.”

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. BGHNC 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 BGHNC at any given time. BGHNC operates its program, services and activities in compliance with federal nondiscrimination laws. BGHNC is nationally accredited by the Council on Accreditation.