Boys and Girls Homes
Mason Fuller Smith
Mason Fuller Smith, Director of Civic Club Relations, with Boys and Girls Homes of NC was introduced by Carrie Hewitt, Club President-Designate.
Mason was raised on a small farm just along the Columbus/Bladen County line. After graduating from Whiteville High School, Smith went on to earn degrees in Religion and Christian Ministries from Campbell University and a Master of Divinity from Duke University, before completing his education with a Doctor of Ministry focused on healing cultures from Columbia Theological Seminary.
For over 20 years he has served among the poor, powerless, and marginalized as a missionary, minister, and outreach director through a number of organizations and churches. Now he seeks to use his skills to tell the story of the Children of Boys and Girls Homes, and spread awareness of their unique and fragile needs. Mason joined the Homes’ staff in March of 2019, taking the baton from Gary Greene.
Mason related his work at the Boys and Girls Homes from his previous experience as a minister and the late night calls with people in crisis, who needed someone to help them through their crisis no matter the hour. Mason tries to learn something from everything and these experiences have helped him at B&GH.
Mason talked about kids who first come to the B&GH relating that these kids know they are labeled like worthless, no good, thug, etc. This lie is the first thing about the B&GH that staff works to overcome. We believe every kid has value and that their true label is excellence. We have to help them discover their true label during their time at the B&GH.
Mason related the story of Tommy who came from a tragic background. “My name is Tommy and I am a worthless piece of s***,” his dad told him that every day. Trauma informed therapy, seeks to bring healing to the root of the problem – counselors, Kiwanis support, school, beauty of campus are all components that work together to help kids learn their true self-worth. Several years later when Tommy was transitioning out of B&G Homes said when asked who he was said, “I am child of God.”
Another story Mason related was about Cora a juvenile who was monitored with ‘jewelry’ when she arrived at the B&G Homes due to her criminal offense. She was not a receptive child, but we showed her love, and affection. After a bible study she said “I would like to help to do next message.” Mentorship between her and staff developed and the next Sunday, it was positive effect, as all the individuals (kids and staff) came together for her.
Child Advocacy Center
Over the years we have added to our programs. We realize that since so many kids in need will never come to our campus, we began about 20 yr ago a community-based program known as the ”Child Advocacy Center.” Under this umbrella we instituted a foster care program that eventually led to an adoption program. We also have “Project Hope” for anyone in the community which aims to bring families back together through healing and therapy,.
Thomas Academy, a county-wide school, for kids left out in traditional schools. The vision of Thomas Academy is to be a school that serves the whole child and helps them find connections, compassion, and character. Mason related, connections with others, you are not alone; compassion to have the sense of care for other humans; and character to know what is right or wrong. Mason used his favorite comedian Jerry Clower’s, ‘is this shirt dirty’ example of ethics to know what to do when there is no rule.
Mason said our club partnership has made a difference, standing toe to toe caring for the needs of children, but I have never seen a Kiwanian not care about a child. During the last two years, both Kiwanians Nicki Swafford and Carrie Hewitt have made the Kiwanis Cottage a passion for giving. Sharing with the girls in the cottage the joy of learning to cook has brought a new level of sense of accomplishment and self-worth among the girls. Once COVID restrictions are lifted, they plan to continue their regular visits.
Finally, Mason responded to questions about B&GH saying that finding new sponsors was critical in this time of financial uncertainty with current sponsors who themselves face a challenging financial environment. Many civic clubs like Kiwanis have seen a significant loss in club funding and he expects next year will see a drop in contributions to B&GH. Mason also related that about 6-8 girls occupy the Kiwanis Cottage at any one time, so that over the course of a year about 20-30 girls will pass through the cottage.
Rich Pollard, Club President, thanked Mason for his inspiring presentation.
Kiwanis scholarships for B&GH
President Pollack noted to the audience that our Club now gives two academic scholarships to graduating seniors at B&GH. This year the scholarships of $1,000 each went to Hunter, an academically gifted student with the highest GPA in his class who manages time well, and to Caitlyn who is a caregiver, a member of the Kiwanis Cottage with a serving spirit, and a heart for children who will study for a degree in social work.
Click on logo to visit the Boys and Girls Homes of North Carolina