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River Hill Refuge to dedicate three new homes in April 27 ceremony

River Hill Refuge, located at 2309 Emerald Mine Rd., Shelby, is hosting a dedication ceremony on Saturday, April 27, at 11 a.m., according to Mr. Blake Ragsdale, Director of Communications and Managing Editor of Charity and Children of Baptist Children's Homes of North Carolina.

Three new homes will be dedicated that day, noted Mr. Ragsdale, and there will be tours and refreshments following the dedication, he added.

He said, "The dedication ceremony will be held in the beautiful pastureland of the Westmoreland family's former River Hill Angus farm, now home for River Hill Refuge. Casual dress is recommended and comfortable walking shoes are a must!"

Ragsdale also noted that, "Baptist Children's Homes of North Carolina is excited to be expanding its ministry into Cleveland County and the surrounding region. The Refuge, a new ministry of Baptist Children's Homes, provides "Freedom from the Past and Hope for the Future" for "...children who have lived a life of trauma."

Ragsdale said, "There is minimal parking on site," adding "Additional parking and a shuttle will be available at Shelby Mission Camp at 302 Sharpton Drive, Shelby."

The houses are the legacy of the late Dr. Ted Westmoreland's "hard work, compassion and love for his family," continued through his sons, Wes and Jay, who have decided to use part of their father's Angus farmland to build three family foster homes through Baptist Children's Homes of North Carolina.

"The homes will be used to transform the lives of countless disadvantaged children in Cleveland County and share with them the hope of Jesus Christ."

Doctor Westmoreland began River Hill Angus, a purebred Angus farm in Cleveland County, in 1969. For the next two decades, his two sons, Wes and Jay, enjoyed countless hours working with him at River Hill.

Dr. Westmore-land's "...integrity, eye for evaluat-
ing cattle, and
dedication to super-
ior genetics help-ed develop a great reputation for River Hill. The farm became a vital
tool for instilling the strong work ethics, entrepreneurial

skills, and compassion that he readily taught. The long hours

working on the farm brought a respect for labor and an unending family bond."

The farm gained prominence as Wes and Jay exhibited cattle, first at the Cleveland County Fair and later at state and national exhibitions.

The brothers today are successful businessmen and are active in a host of charitable endeavors that enhance their communities and they envision the farm being a resource to transform the lives of disadvantaged children so that they will find freedom from the past and learn transformative life lessons to provide hope for the future.

In response to questions, Mr. Ragsdale noted the brothers donated their property in Shelby to Baptist Children's Homes of North Carolina (BCH) and made a lead gift to build the first home in memory of their father. The property is located on the family farm, River Hill Angus, near Shelby - this is where the name originates from. The Westmoreland's late father, Dr. Ted G. Westmoreland, was a successful veterinarian and noted for raising championship cattle.

Jay and Wes grew up working on the farm with their father and this is a very nostalgic project for them, stated Mr. Ragsdale, who added, "but most importantly, it is a project that carries on the family legacy that will impact the lives of the NC foster care children living there."

Baptist Children's Homes has locations throughout the state but did not have a presence in the Cleveland County area until River Hill Refuge became a reality. It was a gap that needed to be filled as the needs in the area are significant.

The Westmoreland's generosity was the catalyst for filling that gap. In addition to the gift of property, the brothers made a lead financial donation to build the first home in memory of their father who passed along his love for BCH and heart for philanthropy to his sons. Their efforts provided the momentum needed to begin raising the $4.3 million that is required to build the homes.

Regarding the project's start, Jay Westmoreland noted, "A few days after dad's funeral in 2017, I returned to walk the property," he remembered. "I called Wes and invited him to join me. I shared the growing vision that had been implanted in my heart, and Wes immediately embraced the concept. We developed ideas together, and we reached out to our friends at Baptist Children's Homes to invite the organization to minister here in Cleveland County and surrounding areas."

Wes Westmoreland said, "We see the needs of so many disadvantaged children - their current circumstances are grim as abuse and abandonment is far too common. Our efforts come from a desire to see this change."

Ragsdale stated, "The three homes are very unique in that they are foster family homes. What this means is that while Baptist Children's Homes (BCH) owns the property, the people that live there are licensed foster families who want to make a difference in the lives of the foster children that will come into the homes. Each home will have a set of BCH-recruited and licensed foster parents who care for as many as six children at one time. The foster parents will care for the children the same way as other foster parents. They have the benefit of living at these spacious, family-style homes which gives them the room they need to care for these boys and girls. The families operate just as any family would. They have their own jobs and schedules like a normal family except live in these homes which are owned by BCH. The foster parents will also have the ongoing support from BCH's Foster Care case managers."

The work done at the homes is in partnership, wrote Mr. Ragsdale, "...with our local NC Departments of Social Services to connect children in their custody with our foster care families who can provide them a caring home for as long as needed. Foster care children can be up to age 18."

He continued, "A top priority is ensuring the privacy and safety of the children and families we serve. Because the homes at River Hill Refuge are created to provide care for children in the NC foster care system, we have parameters in place to provide them with a safe place where they can thrive for as long as we have the privilege to care for them."

Ragsdale said the idea for the homes really came from the hearts of Jay and Wes Westmoreland and their family.

"Determining the types of homes they would be and the kind of care they would offer was a collaboration between them and our Baptist Children's Homes leadership," he said, via email.

He continued, "We always strive to evaluate what the needs are in the different areas of the state where we serve and how we can best meet those needs. How everything came together has been a tremendous partnership built on the Westmoreland's generosity and their hearts to see children's lives impacted for the better. As a nonprofit, there is no way Baptist Children's Homes could meet the variety of needs we see - which can range from abuse, neglect, and family dysfunction - without the friendship of those who have the desire and resources to make a difference. River Hill Refuge is a beautiful example of what can happen when all of these things come together. The result is the opportunity to see children's lives forever changed in the Cleveland County area and beyond."

For more information on the dedication ceremony and logistics, go to https://www.riverhill

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