Thank you so much to the State Journal for this great article about Golden Girl Group Home. Be sure to check it out on their website.
Golden Girl Group Home benefits from corporate giving
Posted: Oct 13, 2016 10:08 AM EDT Updated: Oct 16, 2016 6:00 AM EDT
Golden Girl Group Home has six buildings on the same quiet block in Ceredo. It’s a peaceful neighborhood atmosphere that provides an amount of tranquility important to its mission.
“It’s hard enough being a teenager,” said Renee Harrison, GGGH executive director. “All teenagers want to be normal. Being in foster care, they don’t consider that normal — being in a group home on top of that.
“We try to make it as home-like as possible.”
The family atmosphere a comfortable home that four to six girls share goes a long way in providing a traditional girl’s upbringing.
The nonprofit helps girls ages 12 to 18 who find themselves in harmful or dangerous situations by giving them housing and providing a structured, caring environment. Girls are accepted from all 55 counties in West Virginia.
The girls are referred to GGGH by the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources.
Harrison has seen more than 660 girls come through GGGH since she arrived in 1984 a few months after her mother, Judy Gilkerson, opened the home.
“We have a lot of success stories,” Harrison said.
The group home operates 24 hours a day and has more than 50 employees, including psychiatrists, nurses, therapists and counselors. Five employees are former residents.
But Harrison said no one has just one role.
She often finds herself behind the wheel, taking a group of girls on a camping trip.
“There’s nothing like a camping trip with a bunch of girls,” she said with a smile. “That’s when the walls come down. You find out what is really going on with their lives.”
Tears flow when a girl leaves, Harrison said.
“I’ve told hundreds of kids that I love them, once I felt that way,” she said. “They need to hear that.”
Unconditional love is part of the reason for success.
“Our feelings for them aren’t going to change based on their behavior or their actions,” Harrison said.
Many girls have told the staff they’ve never heard the words “I love you” or received a hug. Some have never received a Christmas present.
On June 9, ground was broken for the Golden Heart Apartments, an affiliated housing option located near the Golden Girl Group Home for girls older than 18.
The apartment building will be equipped with an educational resource center, five one-bedroom units, five two-bedroom units and one staff unit to provide help and support for the girls 24 hours a day.
Cabell Huntington Hospital is a partner in the effort.
“Every day, teenage girls in West Virginia find themselves in difficult family situations that are harmful, or even dangerous,” said Nikki Thomas, GGGH advancement coordinator. “Through no fault of their own, these girls have no place to call home.
“We have a facility to provide a structured, caring environment for girls up to age 18, but needed a place where older girls can grow and flourish and learn how to step back out into the world on their own.”
When a girl reaches 18, she can leave custody if she chooses, Harrison said.
“We will try to have them not leave,” she said. “We want to help them through what it’s like to live independently. They’ll have a choice to stay.”
Golden Girl Group Home has had a relationship with Toyota Motor Manufacturing West Virginia for at least seven years, Thomas said.
It was Toyota that reached out first.
“They came down and asked what they could do,” Thomas said.
Toyota team members worked at the home in a variety of ways, including sprucing up the property inside and out.
“It started out hanging curtain rods and painting, and ended up with their workers gutting a whole house and renovating a third house,” Thomas said.
Several more projects followed.
“The relationship has been consistent and amazing,” Thomas said. “We’re excited to be partners with them.”
“We couldn’t survive without our donors,” Harrison added.
“The best thing about the donors is they’re giving these girls a life they couldn’t have had otherwise,” Thomas said.