WYTHEVILLE, Va. – The Presbyterian Children’s Home of the Highlands started at Foster Falls in Wythe County in 1919. It has been home to thousands of children from throughout Southwest Virginia during its 100 year history.
According to Executive Director Billy Rice, PCHH started in a two story cinder block building.
“It started as an industrial home for girls,” Rice said. “A year later it started taking boys and we’ve been co-ed ever since.”
Rice said the children stay in cottages with house parents at PCHH. He said a great majority of the children come from the 19 counties west of Roanoke.
“The kid’s get up, do chores, go to school,” Rice said. “They have free time and study time. They are involved in counseling to deal with issues that they brought with them. We try to show them what a normal day would be like. Some come from homes where they would go home and worry about who’s going to hit you or worry about who’s going to be on drugs. Academics are an afterthought in homes like that. We work with them here and make sure they have academic opportunities.”
Rice said seeing children grow into trusting individuals is the best part of his job.
“One of the truest joys of what we do is to watch a child go from unable to trust anyone or feel that they should be loved and watch them blossom into a person that can do that,” Rice said. “To react to a different kind of life, a life where you don’t have to live the way you were treated. It’s the ultimate reward to have a family come back and to see them raising their family and not us.”
PCHH Administrative Director Wynette Yontz said she is excited to celebrate 100 years of helping children from across the region.
“I’m excited,” Wynette Yontz said. “I’ve been here 43 of those 100 years. When I first came we had 30 children, pretty much all the time. When you see a child come back and say I don’t know what would have happened to me if it wasn’t for the children’s home. When people ask me our success rate, I say 100 percent because they get to learn there is a different way of life. There are so many that don’t realize what their experiencing is not normal.”
Rice wanted to thank all the faithful donors that make the children’s home possible.
“We couldn’t have done any of this without the faithful donors over the past 100 years,” Rice said. “Thousands of people have lived here. This is where they live while they are here. There are lots of success stories. We have a long term resident that’s getting ready to graduate from UVA-Wise as a Darden Scholar.”
PCHH Development Director Dale Yontz said unconditional love and a family atmosphere are two of the concepts that help influence the children’s lives in a positive matter.
“The children’s home is something that provides to children of all walks of life,” Yontz said. “We’re able to impact children through showing them unconditional love. We’re able to influence children from different backgrounds and expose children to a true family atmosphere.”
The 100th Anniversary event will be held on September 21st, 2019. Officials encourage everyone to come and help celebrate 100 years of service to children.
“Places like ours become even more important as a resource as time goes on,” Rice said. “We are committed to be a children’s home into the next century of our service.”