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Elkins Children's Home open house Wednesday

by Matt Harvey

ASSISTANT MANAGING EDITOR

ELKINS -- An open house Wednesday at the West Virginia Children's Home in Elkins won't last until the cows come home. But West Virginia Department of Agriculture officials are putting on the event in hopes of making some hay for the kids. After all, they reason, these young people have had a tough row to hoe.

Aside from some very tired farm cliches, though, what does the agriculture department have to do with the children's home?

The department's connection comes through the nearby Darby Farm. In 1930, it was given for the use of the children in the home. The agriculture department owns the farm and has overseen its operations on behalf of the home's kids for the past few years.

Agriculture Commissioner Gus Douglass and Deputy Commissioner Janet L. Fisher said they've seen plenty of good work at the home. Enough for them to want to plant some seeds with Randolph County-area residents and business owners.

"They're a state agency, we're a state agency," Fisher said. "We thought we could help give some visibility to the home and maybe pique community interest in it. Hopefully as a result of this, they'll have more community partners to help them with the work they're doing."

The open house will be held from 1-4 p.m. Wednesday.

Carson Markley has been director at the children's home for 22 years. He believes the publicity drive led by the agriculture department is an excellent chance to cultivate interest.

"We thought it was a great idea when they told us about it," Markley said. "With their support we thought it would be more successful than if we had thought of it and done it ourselves."

The children's home helps neglected, abused and dependent boys and girls ages 11 through 17 from throughout West Virginia. There is a school at the home, and counselors, too.

The children's home offers similar services as The Genesis Youth Center or Pressley Ridge of Northern West Virginia. But it's the only one in West Virginia that's run by the state, Markley said.

"We're going to do everything we can to intervene, get these kids back in school and back in the community," Markley said.

The kids play sports. And some of the ones who are able to handle it go to Randolph County schools, Markley said.

The home has become just that for Markley, too. He said he loves his work and believes his staff helps make a big difference in the young people.

He came here after stops as a prison administrator in places like Alderson and Marion, Ill.

He knows that by the time the horse is out of the barn, it's too late to shut the door. Translated: Prevention is key.

"I've been to the big (prisons), the little ones, the bad ones, the good ones," Markley said. "I tell the kids if we don't stop them here, they're going to end up in places like that. So we're going to do everything we can to intervene, get these kids back in school and back in the community."