MARSTON — Go out to the chicken yard at Kenneth Robinette’s home near Rockingham on a warm morning in early spring and you’ll find him and 4-year-old granddaughter Madelyn gathering freshly laid eggs.
“Raising the chickens was all about the grandkids,” Robinette said. “I wanted them to see the birds peck through the shells, grow from small chicks and then lay their own eggs.”
What started with a few unhatched eggs has grown to 40 chickens and a few guinea fowl. Being raised on a farm in South Carolina, Robinette learned lessons that he holds dear today.
“Farming is hard work,” he said. “But you learn what’s important. You learn responsibility. You learn how to take care of things and see your hard work turn into something worthwhile. It makes you a better person.”
Some of the eggs the family raises are placed into cartons and Kenneth and wife Claudia Robinette deliver the fresh eggs to the moms and their children living at The Claude and Lois Smith Family Care Home in Marston, only a few miles from the couple’s home.
Claudia Robinette and her sister Beverly Smith wanted their parents’ home to be used for something that would honor their memory. After Claudia Robinette learned about Baptist Children’s Homes’ possible need from her pastor, Jim Nelson at First Baptist Church of Rockingham, she called the ministry.
“My parents built this home and lived in it for 70 years,” Claudia Robinette said. “As my dad’s business grew, they added on and over time the home grew, too.”
Sam Barefoot, BCH’s senior vice president overseeing properties, toured the large family home and quickly determined it would be ideal for a Family Care house. The additions the Smiths made over time were now perfect for multiple moms and their children.
Claude Smith was a “pioneer,” daughter Claudia Robinette says. Feeling limited while pursuing a college education from N.C. State, he and his bride began a broom business. He created a device to automate broom-making, patented it, and the business boomed, shipping “Rapid” brooms around the United States.
The success of this venture allowed Claude Smith to turn his active imagination to real estate development. In a short time, Rockingham had its first open-air shopping center, Richmond Plaza. The business grew, and after Kenneth and Claudia Robinette married, Kenneth joined the company.
Their two children are part of the family business today — son Neil is the company’s CEO and daughter Gabrielle leads the marketing efforts.
With a clear use for the home now determined, Claudia and Kenneth Robinette began to make some needed improvements before deeding the property to BCH.
Churches from the Pee Dee Baptist Association joined the project and donated labor for the remodeling and renovations. Led by First Baptist Church Rockingham member Dennis Holloway, the group, composed of 16 churches and 56 volunteers, painted every inch of the interior, moved a couple walls, refurbished the kitchen and brought new life to the Smith home.
“It’s been lovingly transformed into something beautiful again,” Claudia Robinette said. “They took things that had been loved by my parents and refinished and refurbished them. Instead of it being shadowy, the light now pours into the rooms.”
The Robinettes have invested their hearts as well as their resources. The couple looks for ways to be involved. They have encouraged the community to help, too. Kenneth Robinette is planning to conduct cooking classes for the moms. He is building raised garden beds behind Smith Home. He plans to teach the mothers to grow vegetables and then can and freeze what they grow.
“The home can be a springboard for a better life,” Claudia Robinette said. “The home offers a stable place. It is a place where moms can be with their children and prepare for their futures. As time rolls by, we look forward to seeing how these families’ lives are transformed.”
Jim Edminson is editor of Charity & Children, the 129-year-old publication of Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina. BCH serves children and families across the state with locations in 20 communities. Learn more at www.bchfamily.org.