WINCHESTER — More than 500 children have lived at the Henry & William Evans Home since it opened 70 years ago.
The home, now located on Leiceister Street, cares for abused and neglected children.
Many of the children who live there experience severe challenges and trauma before they enter the building.
Former Evans Home resident Bowen Murphy, 44, was one of those kids. He moved there in 1986 when he was 11 years old.
“I want you to picture being 5 [years old] to whatever,” Murphy said. “I want you to think about the only aspect of love you’ve gotten used to is that right punch to the eye.
“Nobody in this world gives a damn about you, and that’s your life. You fight, you claw, you bite for anything and everything because you have nothing, and in your heart you have no one.”
His description of the child abuse he experienced explains why he and other Evans Home residents can be angry, hurting and reluctant to trust anyone. It also explains why they sometimes put the staff “through hell,” he said.
“We don’t do it intentionally, but we don’t trust anyone because no one’s ever given us a reason to,” Murphy said.
But he vividly remembers when former Evans Home director Kirby Lloyd took him in his arms and hugged him for the first time.
“That was the first time in memory I could remember feeling safe, that somebody actually did care,” Murphy said, tearing up. “And it wasn’t just words, it wasn’t just a mouthpiece. Somebody cared. That’s what the Evans Home is.”
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The Evans Home, an accredited and licensed nonprofit facility, gives its residents a chance to realize their worth.
For Murphy, it will always be his home.
He stressed that despite all the things the children who live there may have endured, they aren’t charity cases.
“Most of them don’t want your pity, they made it here because they’re fighters,” said Murphy, a massage therapist and student at Lord Fairfax Community College who is working toward earning a pharmacy degree, hopefully at Shenandoah University. “They want you to believe in them. They don’t want you to pity them.”
Thirty-four-year-old Lori Mansfield Cumberledge, who now lives in West Virginia and works as a rehabilitation counselor helping people with disabilities find jobs, moved to the Evans Home in 2001 when she was about 15 years old. The experience gave her a space where she didn’t feel like she had to conform, unlike the foster homes where she previously lived.
She fondly remembers the house mother at the Evans Home tucking her in at night, something she had never experienced growing up. She said the Evans Home came into her life at a time when she was very traumatized and it gave her time to heal.
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The location and size of the Evans Home has changed significantly over the years.
The first meeting of the board of directors for the Evans Home was on Oct. 24, 1949. The home was originally located in a three-story Victorian house, which became the site of a Sears department store and is now the North Loudoun Street parking garage. Local legend says the owners of the home — brothers Henry and William Evans — buried a fortune in gold on the property, but it has yet to be discovered.
That home was where Molly Evans Janney, daughter of Henry Evans, grew up. Evans Janney left a small trust fund to her niece Lillian Evans Sheetz. In her will, Evans Janney stipulated that a trust be established if her niece did not have an heir, which she didn’t. The trust would then go toward creating a home for abused and needy children and it would be named after her father, Henry Evans, and her uncle, William Evans.
The trust stipulated that the home was for “white, orphaned children” from the city of Winchester and Frederick and Clarke counties. They had to be younger than 14 to live there and had to leave by age 16. The policy was later changed to allow “needy” children who were not orphans. The age limit was also increased to 18.
The home remained segregated through the 1960s, as board members didn’t want to violate the Evans Janney trust.
Today, children of all races, from ages 5 to 18, are accepted.
“We’re a rainbow now,” said Evans Home Director Marc Jaccard, who first started working there 25 years ago. “We’ve had all stripes of kids and they get along. They take care of each other.”
In 1952, a new Evans Home was built at 330 E. Leicester St. when the board realized it would cost $20,000 to renovate the original location, which did not allow children on the third floor per the local fire marshal’s order. So the Trust Department of Shenandoah Valley National Bank petitioned the Winchester Circuit Court to sell the North Loudoun Street property to build a new Evans Home. The home still operates on Leicester Street.
The new facility had eight bedrooms, three bathrooms, a full-sized kitchen, a washroom, a furnace room, two pantries, a dining room and a living room.
Linda Smedley, 73, of Winchester, was one of the first children to live in the location. She moved in at age 5 in 1952 and spent 14 years there. She remembers arriving on a cold, snowy day. As a child, her eyes were crossed, but the Evans Home helped her get corrective surgery and provided her with eyeglasses.
Smedley, who was one of four children in her family, said she came to live at the Evans Home because her father was rarely around and her mother was ill.
She remembers walking to dances at the War Memorial Building in nearby Jim Barnett Park with other girls from the Evans Home. She and other residents would also go to the movies for free on Saturdays at a theater in downtown Winchester. If their rooms were clean, the Evans Home staff would give the children a nickel each to buy a box of candy at the movies.
“It brought me out of my shell,” Smedley said of her time at the Evans Home.
She married shortly after she left the Evans Home, but the marriage ended after she had her only child. She has been divorced for 44 years now. Smedley, who worked as a store manager for a company based out of North Carolina, lives in an apartment in Winchester and works part-time at a local CVS.
“It made me not like being married that’s for sure,” she said of her childhood experiences. “When you’re taken away from your mother at 5 years old, that kind of does something to you.”
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The Evans Home, which now has separate wings for boys and girls, can accommodate 20 children, with a room for each child. But because of licensing changes, it can only house up to 14 children. Thirteen children currently live there. Children are able to live at the home under a private agreement made between their parents and The Evans Home.
In 2004, the Evans Home opened another home adjacent to its current property called the Lloyd House, which is named for the late Kirby Lloyd. It is a place where former residents can live. Residents pay a monthly rent, which is then paid fully back to them upon moving out. Up to eight residents can stay in the house, but no more than five have ever stayed at once.
“It’s set up so that anybody who’s ever lived here, if they fall on hard times, can come stay there,” Jaccard said. “It really is a forever home. We try to support and still support kids who have long since left.”
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When Jaccard first started working at the Evans Home, only foster care children lived there. Starting in July, foster children will no longer be able to live there as the result of a statewide initiative that began more than 10 years ago to encourage more neglected or abused children being placed with families through the foster care system.
During the administration of former Virginia governor Tim Kaine, who is now a U.S. senator, former first lady Anne Holton helped bring about the Children’s Services System Transformation in 2007. Part of that effort limits congregate care, such as the Evans Home. Instead of putting a child in congregate care, the initiative aims to put more children in foster care with wraparound support services.
“We need more, not less options for children,” Jaccard lamented.
Of the 33 members of the Virginia Association of Children’s Homes, only seven, including the Evans Home, remain in operation, Jaccard said.
“It’s been extremely frustrating,” he said. “It’s hard enough to help kids get better and grow and become healthy, and when you find most of your energy fighting for the right to do that, it’s ridiculous.”
Moving forward, the Evans Home will mostly receive referrals from public schools and area nonprofit groups such as the Winchester Area Temporary Thermal Shelter (WATTS) and the Winchester Rescue Mission, Jaccard said. Schools are able to refer students to the Evans Home who are under the care of homeless parents because those children are not necessarily being neglected, he explained.
The Evans Home’s current annual budget is about $480,000. Previously, it received 50% in state funding through the foster care children who were referred to live there by the Department of Social Services, and the remaining 50% from donations. As of October, the nonprofit solely relies on donations.
Jaccard said the budget has been tight over the years. In his 25-year tenure, several jobs have been cut, such as a housekeeper, a maintenance person, an activities specialist and an independent living coordinator.
Despite the changes, Jaccard believes the Evans Home will continue into the future.
The Evans Home has also requested and received more in-kind gift donations that are often asked for through its Facebook page. He also hopes to grow the endowment from $1.8 million to $5 million, to generate the 50% of annual funding the state used to provide.
“So many people believe in the home,” he said.
A key fundraising event is also coming up for the Evans Home — the 50th annual doll auction on Dec. 15 from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley in Winchester. There will be a live and silent auction simultaneously going on for dolls outfitted in various categories including historic, patriotic, character and artistic themes.
Even with the obstacles, Jaccard believes the history and the love the community has for the Evans Home will be what keeps it standing tall.