Children's Refuge Was Founded on Faith and Hope
and Has Existed on and for Charity
By W. J. Carter
"Faith, Hope and Charity--and the greatest of these . . ."
Founded and mantained literally on those three great virtues, Bethany Home for Friendless Children at Granite, Va., just outside the corporate limits of Richmond, has for more than two score years been a living testimonial to one woman's gratitude and Faith.
To that woman the early half of that mauve decade recorded as the "gay nineties" was drab and dreary. She was Mrs. J. R. F. Burroughs for whom good health had so long been denied that the medical profession of her day despaired of ever benefiting her. But Mrs. Burroughs would not accept material medica's verdict and never gave up her belief that sometime she would be fully restored. Her faith was rewarded, and when, in 1895, she had recovered she cast about for some way to show her gratitude for what she and her husband both looked upon as Divine intercession.
Bethany Home for Friendless Children was the way she finally chose.
Of the material things necessary for such an undertaking there were just two--a house and an abundance of motherly love. Funds for its upkeep, supplies, assistance, even friendless children were lacking--but there was always Faith and Hope on hand. And so endowed merely with an aged couple's love for their fellow-man Bethany Home began.
Home Granted Papers of Incorporation in 1898
That there was a need for such an enterprise was quickly demonstrated, and Mr. and Mrs. Burroughs soon had their first charges. Others followed, and as Mrs. Burroughs commented in later years, "the way and the things necessary always were found somehow, although there were times when it didn't seem possible."
Three years after the start of their noble adventure the Burroughs saw their achievement granted incorporation papers by the State. From that date to this Faith Hope and Charity have been the trinity on which Bethany Home has grown and yearly cast a wider sheltering shadow over hundreds of boys and girls. More than a thousand children have known the farm as "home," children who have gone forth into the world and brought credit to their upbringing and renown to the Virginia institution.
Today management is vested in a board of trustees the personnel of which includes L. D. Lacy, president; the Rev. Thomas Semmes, vice-president; James S. Redd, manager; Dr. Turner S. Shelton, physician; Arthur H. Pettigrew, engineer, and Charles S. Maurice, counsel. Members of the board serve without financial compensation and the managing trustee devotes time and thought to the direction of affairs.
A collegian, Redd was bred and born on his father's estate in Henry County and there he learned to hoe and plow. Branching out, a course in civil engineering perfected him for service, some times strenuous, both on his native heath and abroad. Overexertion, however, levied inevitable toil on even a vigour constitution, but with health regained this versatile Virginian gives freely of his time to Bethany Home.
Built on Hope, Home Still Kept by Charity
Bethany home has no endowment, no stated income, nor is it aided financially by the city, State or county governments or the Richmond Community Fund. Its support is derived mostly from charitable friends in the city of Richmond. Transportation of its children to the public schools is paid for by the institution from its own funds. The children, ranging from the ages of 6 to 12, are received as inmates, provided with a comfortable home, trained and educated until they reach 18.
Some of the boys adapt themselves to trades and acquire mechanical skill of the sort befitting them to fill responsible positions later in life, while others develop ability in even more advanced directions enabling them to enter the employ of corporations in an upward climb to fame and fortune.
Girls are schooled along the line of domestic science, including cooking, sewing and the various household duties; and instances may be cited of their marriage after leaving the institution and then establishment of private homes that have proved a haven for younger sisters.
With the present management, a system of counseling rather than one of enforcement has worked to advantage. Members of classes both male and female have been allowed to choose their own presidents, thus promoting harmony and tending largely to forestall discord.
The property comprises 130 acres of land on which have been erected necessary buildings with the exception of a fireproof dormitory for boys. The place clothed in the garb of spring with its evenly kept lawns and driveways ornamented by rows of maples, presents a paradise of loveliness for children whose welfare is the prime consideration.
Under admirable control these youngsters appear happy and contented. Mrs. Redd and Miss Agnes Lankford, have charge of the dormitory for girls and under the supervision exercised, a rare order functions. Miss Lankford's connection with the home began as a girl in the teens and the work of this gentle, lovable character, with 40 years of continuous service, carries on in splendid fashion.
The home maintains an average of about 50 boys and girls. A certified herd of Jerseys, tested at regular intervals, furnishes abundant supply of milk and cream, contributing to rosy lips and red cheeks of youngsters whose peels of laughter are as music in the hallways and dormitories and at play time.
"And the greatest of these is charity." This may be truly said in exemplifying the work of Bethany Home. With Dr. Semmes the ministering angel now as in many a year past, and other co-workers combined with the practical methods of the managing trustee, a brighter prospect is visualized following lean years of depression and the handicap of indebtedness resting on the home is gradually being lightened. Free service is cheerfully rendered by Richmond dentists and oculists; health of the children, ever regarded as a prime consideration, is safe-guarded by Dr. Shelton. And all of this for sweet charity's sake. During 30 years or longer the doctor has given freely of his time in the bestowal of medical aid on the youthful inmates. In the long stretch of years under Dr. Shelton's care only a single death has been recorded, that of a child, resulting from inhuman treatment before the little one was rescued by Bethany Home.
Even with overhead expenses being kept down, the cost per capita averages about $200, which is quite moderate and could only be made possible by the willingness of the board of trustees and perhaps some others connected with the institution to render service without financial compensation.