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A non-profit publication of the Office of the University Relations of Virginia Tech,
including The Conductor, a special section of the Spectrum printed 4 times a year

VEFC Aids Teenager

By Kerry Dodson,

United Way Communications coordinator

Spectrum Volume 17 Issue 10 - October 27, 1994

His name is Kirk Cowser and at first glance, he's a typical teenager who enjoys loud music, fast cars, and playing soccer in the back yard. He dreams of going to college and becoming a teacher or counselor. But look a little closer--into his eyes--and you will see the pain, joy, and courage Kirk has experienced over the past four years.

"There was a time when I just went to school to escape everything I was going through at home," Kirk said. "I was very angry. I just didn't care about school or anything else. When I first started high school, I was always getting into trouble and failing almost all my classes."

Kirk is one of many children who suffered from parental neglect and abuse. At age 14, he was removed from his home and placed in a temporary home through United Way partner agency Volunteer Emergency Families for Children (VEFC). After spending two weeks with VEFC, Kirk was placed in a more permanent home setting through another United Way partner agency, the Shelter Home, Inc.

"When I was fourteen I was always getting into trouble--getting into fights at school, abusing alcohol--I just didn't think anyone really listened to me or cared," Kirk said. "When I first arrived at the Shelter Home, I was a little scared. I didn't really know what to expect. But I found right away that I could talk to Dawn and Russ (house parents of The Shelter Home) and I could trust them. Once I got some of the issues settled in my life, I worked very hard to bring my grades up at school. I went to summer school every summer and now it is paying off. I'm going to go to New River Community College next semester and after that I plan to transfer to Radford University to become a teacher or counselor."

Kirk Cowser is just one of the thousands of children who have been helped by your generosity through the Combined Virginia Campaign, United Way, Volunteer Emergency Families For Children and The Shelter Home, Inc.

Volunteer Emergency Families for Children recruits and supports a network of trained and approved volunteer families who provide temporary shelter for children in crisis situations. Often, the care children receive allows them to return to a safer, more stable home environment.

However, sometimes a more permanent shelter is needed. VEFC also reaches out to at-risk teens and juvenile offenders through the Alternatives to Detention program providing youth with positive adult mentor role models. Last year, VEFC served 35 children in Montgomery County and Radford and 900 children state-wide.

The Shelter Home has provided foster care for children in crisis for more than 20 years. Serving children from the New River Valley, the Shelter Home is located in Blacksburg and staffed by live-in house parents. It can house as many as eight children at one time. Last year alone, the Shelter Home served 20 clients making every effort to help children develop healthy emotions and participate in a structured family environment, local recreation programs, and local schools.

For more information about Volunteer Emergency Families for Children, The Shelter Home, Inc., the United Way of Montgomery County and Radford, or the Combined Virginia Campaign, contact the United Way office at 381-2066.