Bigger, better neighbors
There is always a lot to be thankful for at the Black Mountain Home for Children. Among them are the breathtaking views prominent throughout the expansive property, the loving environment provided to children by house parents, and the family environment that eluded many residents before they arrived.
Yet in recent years the home, a part of the community for nearly a century, has enjoyed one of life’s finer luxuries - a great neighbor in Hedrick Industries, a 30-year-old company out of Lilesville.
In 1954, six years after Hedrick Industries bought Grove Stone & Sand, the neighboring orphanage was known as Presbyterian Home for Children of Black Mountain, Inc., reflecting its founder Rev. R.P. Smith’s ties to the Asheville Presbytery. And as it grew, becoming Black Mountain Home for Children, Youth & Families, so has Hedrick, now the fifth-largest producer of crushed stone in North Carolina.
BMH president Tom Campbell arrived on campus nearly 11 years ago, seven years after the home added four cottages on campus to house children that had previously resided in a dorm-like 1920s building.
Campbell’s arrival reinvigorated the connection the home, founded in 1904, has with the local community - an asset that continues to be a high priority for BMH. The support received from neighbors like Hedrick Industries has led to tremendous growth in recent years.
“The home has always been blessed to have a lot of churches and people from the community support the ministry. I think that goes back decades,” Campbell said.
Some of the strongest support BMH has received has been from a pair of neighbors that it shares with Grove Stone & Sand - Owen High and Owen Middle schools.
“The relationship with the high school, the middle school and the elementary schools has been awesome, and the support has been incredible,” Campbell said. “That is huge for us and has made a big difference.”
Campbell said that national statistics shows that 34-50 percent of what he refers to as “at-promise” youth (a play on the term “at-risk”) will earn a high school diploma or G.E.D. His program’s ability to motivate residents has produced a graduation rate of 89 percent - 64 out of 72 students since the home began keeping track in 2009.
The home’s home-like environment impressed Joe Lordi, Hedrick Industries division president and chief operation office. Lordi was introduced to Campbell six years ago by his father-in-law, Hedrick CEO Jeffrey Goodman.
“We’re a fourth-generation family-owned and -operated company, so community is important to us,” Lordi said. “It is a big emphasis, and it always has been. By the nature of what we do, we are in a position where we have to be good stewards of the land and we also have to be good neighbors.
“One of the things that I was impressed about when I met Tom (Campbell) was that they are a world-class organization sitting right here in the Valley,” he continued. “Tom and Sarah Thomas (the home’s vice president of finance and development) could be working as a Fortune 500 CEO. These are world-class people that are very mission-driven and provide incredible value to this area.
“You can’t help but notice it if you spend five minutes with them on their campus and see their interaction with the kids.”
The two organizations have become closer over the last eight years. The quarry at Grove Stone & Sand serves a one-of-a-kind race venue for the Rock The Quarry 5K, a race that raised $30,000 for BMH this year.
“We’re serving 56 kids compared to 10 years ago when we were serving about a third of that. B but we’re still getting the same amount of government money,” Campbell said. “One of our goals is to decrease dependency on government support and have our ministry continue to serve these kids.”
The relationship with Hedrick has helped BMH become more visible to other businesses, who are often willing to help the home accomplish its mission to “glorify God by caring for children and families.”
“One of the big goals here is to increase awareness about the ministry,” Campbell said. “Part of that is that we do an annual golf tournament where we look to connect with business partners in the community. In the last few years Grove Stone has really gotten involved in this and they sponsor that tournament.”
The relationship between the neighbors has grown in recent years as Hedrick shifted its focus on outreach initiatives to local organizations. The momentum gained more traction after Lordi learned the scope of the operation at BMH.
“Come to find out we have this wonderful partner that is literally right next door to us,” Lordi said. “And I think they are literally doing the best work in Buncombe County.”
Campbell points out partnerships like the one that his organization has developed with Hedrick through the years help provide the home with valuable tools to help motivate a population that requires a specialized approach.
The contributions by Hedrick also model a valuable lesson for the kids at BMH, whose impact on the community includes outreach programs at Highland Farms and the nearby state veteran’s home.
“We teach them to be good neighbors as well,” he said.
Lordi believes that the lives of his employees have been enriched by the relationship that Grove Stone has maintained with BMH.
“There is a deep respect between both of us,” he said. “Like any good relationship if you need something either side can call and have that conversation. We look out for one another.”
Last week the campus celebrated an overall GPA that exceeded 3.0, and a grading period that did not see a single BMH resident earn an “F” on his or her report card. Campbell was preparing to allow the children the opportunity to dunk him in a dunk tank on campus as a celebration.
On a hill that overlooks Grove Stone & Sand the children gathered as the home found yet another way to motivate its children to succeed.
Donning a silly wig and oversized bow tie and preparing for a line of children to attempt to dunk him in water on a cold, fall afternoon, Campbell reiterated the importance of community support for the ministry he leads. He reflected on continuously growing relationship between the home and Hedrick.
“There have been times where we have gotten something stuck in the mud and we’ve needed there help and they have been right there to help us pull it out,” Campbell said. “We share a property line and they are just a tremendous neighbor.”