Star Tannery — Every day during his short tenure as program director, and then, too, even after he assumed the executive directorship, M. Kirby Lloyd would walk to the Henry and William Evans Home for Children from his apartment on Monmouth Street — and cry every step of the way.
And, at the end of the day, so he told me last week, he would “cry all the way home.”
Some people appreciate children, and others genuinely love children. And then there are those who, as my wife likes to say, “carry a burden” for children.
Melvin Kirby Lloyd definitely belongs in that last category. For 22 years, he served as the Evans Home’s executive director. Over that period, some 202 children — indigent, needy, abused, abandoned — passed through the portals of the home in the meadow between Cork and Leicester streets.
Kirby carried a burden for every one. And, for two in particular — biological teenaged brothers Donnie and Tommy — the “burden” was so special that he and his wife of 32 years, Ann, took them into their home, early in their marriage, and raised them as “sons.”
Still, Kirby, who retired in 2000 to his pastoral abode nestled in the shadows of Great North Mountain, never envisioned it turning out this way. At least not in the beginning.
To retrace our steps a bit from last week, the Evans Home reopened in March 1977, after its board of directors had made the fateful decision to break the will under which the facility operated in order to accept children of all races and thus obtain state licensure.
Later that year, Executive Director Michael Borash asked Kirby, then working with juvenile court services, to help as a consultant in a revision of the home’s program for services. Borash then hired Kirby full-time as program director and shortly thereafter, in October 1978, resigned.
The executive director’s job became Kirby’s. Consultant one year, chief of operations the next — it was almost too much.
“The first two months, I would have quit in a heartbeat,” says the Bluemont native, now 68. “Then, you couldn’t have gotten me out of there with a bulldozer.”
Why the change? “I got angry,” he says. “I didn’t like the way the children were perceived. I didn‘t like the idea that any child was less of an individual because (he or she lived at the home).
“I guess we all pay for the sins of our fathers. The first thing I wanted to do was change the image.”
And that, in a sense, entailed changing not merely the image of the children to the outside world, but also their own expectations.
“I wanted to establish security, 24/7, for the children,” Kirby says. “Once they get that, once they realize they have that, the nurturing stream can set in. It takes awhile. But once they believe, the sky’s the limit.”
And, once the children believed, the community as a whole did likewise — in the worthiness and value of the home itself. One need only witness how the home has expanded physically or attend an Evans Home fund-raiser to realize the extent to which folks, in Kirby’s words, have “responded.”
“I remember where the money came from,” he says, “from people who had a lot and people who didn’t. I’m a strong believer in the widow’s mite.”
He also knew when it was time for him to leave, time to hand over the reins to Marc Jaccard, who was then the program director.
“I miss the Evans Home every day of my life,” Kirby says. “I left the Evans Home because it was best for the home in the long term. It was best, it was time for a change. But I loved the Evans Home all those years, and still do.”
And the anger?
“I always feel anger,” he says, “because there shouldn’t be a need for that kind of home.”
That “burden,” you see, it never lessens, never rests.
Adrian O'Connor has been the Editorial Page Editor of the Winchester Star since December 1992. He has been writing his weekly column 'Valley Pike' since March 1997.