Hedrick Cottage, Nazareth host reunion
By Shavonne Potts
SALISBURY — Not long ago, Jasper, a teen who voluntarily entered Nazareth Children’s Home, had no thoughts of his future. Today, the 17-year-old is studying to become a certified nursing assistant.
By the time the high school student graduates, he’ll be closer to his goal of becoming a message therapist, chiropractor or acupuncturist.
Jasper was no longer able to live with his grandparents. He’d previously gone to a wilderness camp and decided he’d “rather live at a group home,” Jasper said.
He lived at Hedrick Cottage, retrained his way of thinking and in the process learned more about himself.
Jasper left the Cottage three months ago, but returned Monday to reunite with the couple — Thomas and Staci Cousar, who were essentially his surrogate parents.
Jasper was just one of more than a dozen other teens who gathered at Dan Nicholas Park for food, fellowship and reflection.
“The purpose is to reconnect with all the boys who used to be at Hedrick. Some are doing well,” said Thomas Cousar.
“I have respect for them,” Jasper said, the most respect he has for many people in his life.
The reunion is also a way for the Cousars to stay in contact with the boys, Staci said.
Jasper acknowledges he’s not a people person, but said “they made me completely comfortable.”
The Cousars, like other teaching parents at Nazareth, apply the teaching family model, which is to assist children to change maladaptive behaviors that they may have used in the past to get their needs met and replace those behaviors with appropriate skills.
“I learned everything doesn’t have to be done in violence,” Jasper said.
He calls the teaching model, positive manipulation.
“They are steps to accepting feedback. You may hear things you don’t want to hear and part of those skills are to remain calm,” Thomas Cousar said.
“There are steps to following instruction by the person in authority,” Cousar said.
Cousar and his wife work to teach the teens to be men, to respect authority and be productive in society.
“It’s a family, a true family,” Cousar said.
He and his wife live in the cottage with the teens for 21 days of the month, 24 hours a day.
Some of the teens, the couple haven’t seen in three years.
“You guys have done phenomenal things since you’ve been here. I just think it’s about time you guys start getting credit for the things that you do,” Cousar told the teens gathered.
Each teen shared their experiences at Hedrick and how they’ve benefited from what they learned.
Solomon, 16, is currently living in a foster home, is grateful to Thomas and Staci Cousar.
“I just thank Mr. Thomas and Mrs. Staci because they helped me become the person I am,” Solomon said.
He said the couple told him to not let anyone tell him he can’t be great and do great in life. Solomon plans to study marine biology at East Carolina University.
Sheldon, 15, came to Nazareth not sure how to control his anger. It was during a fit of anger that made his foster parents turn to Nazareth.
“I learned how to follow instruction and that’s helped me a lot since was there,” he said.
Salisbury attorney Michael Phillips spoke to the teens about being successful. He listened to them talk of their experiences.
“I’m just here to take in and absorb your successes,” he said.
Phillips told them about growing up in a single-parent household and the choices he had to make as a child to either follow the crowd or obey his mother.
“The only thing that matters are the choices you make,” he said.
Phillips has seen many of the teens in a court setting, but said this was a great experience to see them in a different atmosphere.
“The last thing they need is someone to give up on them,” Phillips said.
The reunion was also a way for those who’ve volunteered throughout the years to visit.
Glenn Shimmel is one of those who volunteered during fishing trips.
Erick Neely, a local barber, is another volunteer who routinely cuts the boy’s hair.
Neely said he has respect for each and every teen.
“I don’t see troubled teens,” he said.
Neely encouraged the teens to “keep up the good work.”
Sam Adams, who is also a teaching parent at Hedrick, said the success stories are what motivates him.
“I look at this as making a lasting impression on people’s lives,” Adams said.
Rosalind Lindsay sits on the board of directors at Rowan Helping Ministries where the teens volunteer at the shelter, give out clothing and work in the soup kitchen.
“I see you there and you are really presenting yourselves well. I’m just really proud of you,” she said.
Hedrick Cottage is looking for more men to volunteer their time. For more information about volunteering, contact the Cousars at 980-235-5064.