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When the Providence Home Board of Trustees threw a huge party on November 18 to celebrate their 20th anniversary, they had no idea it would mean so much more. It wasn’t just a thank you to the community for all the support they have given, but it was also a special reunion.

Over 20 years ago, concerned and caring folks saw a community need for an emergency shelter for teenagers and determined to do something about it. This small group of dedicated people developed the plans, purchased the house, secured the funding, got all the approvals and worked tirelessly to turn their dream into a reality. The result was the founding of Providence Home, the only residence in Brunswick County where teenagers who, for whatever reason, need a short-term cooling off period away from their families.

(from L to R) Linda Thule, the first Providence Home counselor; Derinda Thrift, the first parent; Warren Mortley, the Executive Director; David Thrift, the first parent
PHOTOGRAPHY BY Carolyn Bowers

Nancy Smith, one of the founders and chair of the event, told an amazing story about how the group received their seed money to begin the renovations on the house they had purchased. Her story goes like this:

Over the years Nancy kept in close touch with a friend of her mother’s. She called this woman every Christmas Eve, and her friend would ask her how she was doing. During the 1996 Christmas Eve call, Nancy told her about the plans to start an emergency shelter for teenagers. Her friend loved the idea and offered to donate $50,000. A very excited Nancy got off the phone and whispered a prayer of gratitude. But on Christmas morning, her friend called back and said she had thought about her offer and had changed her mind. Nancy was devastated; her dreams were dashed. And then her friend went on to say, “No, you don’t understand. I love this idea and I want to give you $150,000 instead.” The woman’s name remains anonymous, but it is thought by many that her gift was divinely inspired.

David and Derinda Thrift, Providence Home’s first house parents, were also at the party on Saturday, along with Linda Thule, who was the first counselor. Derinda described it as “the hardest job we ever had and loved.” When asked what the kids were like back then she said, “They weren’t bad kids; they were kids with bad problems. Providence Home has a structured environment and what parents don’t understand is that kids like structure.”

Providence Home for teens Southport NC“There were expectations and there were consequences,” Thule continued. “Kids were always treated with respect. If there was a problem, Warren [Executive Director Warren Mortley] had a sit-down with them and showed them so much love that they didn’t know what happened to them. And that got them back on track.”

Carol Church, one of the original members of the Board of Trustees was also at the celebration and enjoyed meeting up with old friends and reminiscing about those early days.

Perhaps the best gift to those who started Providence Home all those years ago was the realization that the guidelines, policies, values, and treatment of the residents they originally put in place 20 years ago remain exactly the same today.

Everyone, from the old guard to the newer Board members to volunteers, agreed that Warren Mortley, the Executive Director for the last 18 years, is a prince of a guy and the perfect person for the job. And they are very grateful to have him because, as one woman put it, “We kissed a lot of frogs before we found our prince!”

An estimated 150 guests came out to thank the staff and volunteers for providing this much-needed service for Brunswick County teenagers and their families, and to enjoy a good old-fashioned pig pickin’ party with all the trimmings.

The pig was cooked and carved by former Board member John Gainey and Mike Hughes. The Back Porch Rockers provided music all afternoon, and the Cape Fear Cruisers Car Show added additional entertainment. And an uncharacteristically warm, sunny afternoon was the final touch for a truly perfect celebration.

Want to help Providence Home?
PO Box 11042
Southport, NC 28461
910-457-0440
www.providencehomenc.com

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