Editor’s note: This is the first article in a series of stories that will focus on The Village Network and its programs offered in Knox County, including the Children’s Resource Center and the Knox Foster Care Network. Published every Thursday, this series is designed to shed light on the problems facing troubled youth and how the resources available through TVN change their lives.
WOOSTER - The Village Network strives, on a daily basis, to better the lives of troubled and traumatized boys and girls, and teach them to make productive choices toward a bright future.
These children come from all walks of life, but have two things in common — a poor choice that brought them into contact with law enforcement and the judicial system, and placement into a successful nurturing and rehabilitative program.
The annual Celebration Day at TVN in Wooster brought together staff, board members and volunteers from the 11 program locations across the state of Ohio, including the Children’s Resource Center in Mount Vernon. The day was an opportunity for staff to be reminded of the importance of their daily mission and the overall strength of the network, while allowing boys from the Boys’ Village Campus to interact and share their stories of failures and successes, hopes and dreams, with anyone willing to listen.
“It is through caring, excellence, teamwork, partnerships, integrity and belief in people that keeps the success for The Village Network alive,” said Jim Miller, TVN executive director.
Eight program opportunities are available: Residential, day treatment, certified juvenile sex offender services, treatment foster care, alternative schooling, community-based programming, home-based care and respite care. Children are placed in programs throughout the state depending on their individual needs.
Through individual, group and family therapy, as well as art and physical therapy, the lives of youth are transformed from a world of darkness to the light at the end of the tunnel that offers hope and opportunity.
“I started to run away and do drugs. I made a big mistake,” said Josh, a Boys’ Village resident who has transformed from an angry youth seeking family acceptance to a wise teenager with his future set on college and a family of his own. “I’ve learned to ?control my anger and better my self-esteem. I want to go to college. … I want to make it to day treatment and go home and have a successful life.”
Through the guidance of retired botanist Dave Schmidt, garden therapy has been used for almost a decade as a way to open youth to gardening, its many rewards and the child’s own inner layers.
“Many of these kids are from the city so they have no idea what a garden is,” said Brooke Winkler, clinical therapist. “Here they learn about horticulture and it doubles as a therapy session.”
The addition of a greenhouse this spring has allowed the program to expand to starting seedlings and allowing the youth to experience the rewards of nurturing a plant from its very start to the finish at harvest.
“It is fun and rewarding,” said 17-year-old Shawn, who celebrated his one-year anniversary at TVN on Wednesday. “I’m a city boy. When I first got here I had no idea about gardening, but now I love it.”
“It’s good to be able to think and process through how things need to work for the plants to grow,” said Travis, 18.
Fruits and vegetables are sold to the staff, and taken to the Wooster Farmers Market on Saturday.
“That is an opportunity for them to work on their social skills with the community and integration into the everyday world,” Winkler said.
“It’s like paradise,” said Jason.
The greenhouse was dedicated Wednesday as the Sanford “Stoney” Stonebraker Greenhouse, in memory of a former board member who volunteered his time for many years to the care and maintenance of the flora and fauna at the Boys’ Village.
TVN helped 1,300 children in 2009, and has a graduation rate of 92.7 percent.
“We are changing the world, one child at a time,” Miller said.