Boys and Girls Homes of North Carolina is continuing to remodel the residential experiences for youth on the Lake Waccamaw campus with the revamped work and life skills program.
“At BGHNC, every interaction with the children is intentional from the moment they wake up until they go to sleep,” said BGHNC President/CEO Ricky Creech. “Our entire staff has implemented the Waccamaw Way, a model of care that provides a higher-level of care and an enriching environment and experience for all of the youth and families served through BGHNC programs. This includes opportunities like working on campus to earn spending money through our new Life Experiences Activity Program (L.E.A.P.).”
Lee Luzader was recently named L.E.A.P. and Milieu Manager under the supervision of Director of Residential Life Joe Yalch.
“L.E.A.P. is replacing the World of Work program on campus by bringing a different feel of intentionality throughout the whole process,” said Luzader. “It is designed for campus residents to gain job and life skills for the next step, whatever that next step may be.”
Luzader joined BGHNC as a member of the cottage life staff before accepting the L.E.A.P. leadership position. His background in business and retail provides him with different insights in shaping the program in a way aligned with the standard job search, application and working process.
“There is a specific application process for each participant,” Luzader said. “Each youth is different, but we generally like to have the youth in the cottages of the main campus for around 30 days before they are eligible to apply. This allows the cottage life staff to see how the youth will fit in different roles. We want to make sure that we are setting them up for success and not just giving them a job for the sake of having a job. For example, we don’t want to hire the youth for a job at the farm if they fear animals. We don’t want them to be working in the kitchen with the culinary program if they have had a bad experience there.”
The L.E.A.P. jobs are designed to provide a real-life employment experience for each participant.
“The L.E.A.P. participants receive a stipend each week and report to their supervisors,” said Luzader. “Our current listed opportunities include farm, grounds, housekeeping, kitchen, clerical, GAC assistant and the Country Store. We are still refining those offerings in part due to the ongoing pandemic and our desire to limit our youth’s exposure until we are beyond the COVID restrictions.
“It is really about providing life skills that can include learning a trade such as with the positions at the farm or in the culinary program,” he continued. “The youth learn about social interaction from a different perspective, including the idea of having to report to a supervisor and completing the required activities within certain timeframes. They are also earning money and learning how to manage that money. It can allow them to take the next step in life better prepared and with a better chance of success whether that is a family reunification, placement with a foster family or moving onto independent living.”
This program is supported through the generosity of the William L. and Josephine B. Weiss Family Foundation. Rotarian and BGHNC board member David Weiss of Holly Spring is one of the principals of the foundation, and he graciously helped make the connection between the organizations.
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.