“And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19
Friends, this year Boys and Girls Country is celebrating 50 years! It is an unbelievable blessing to be able to serve children from families in crisis for half a century. With your faithful support, lives have been changed, educational barriers have been demolished and cycles of trauma have ended. God has provided Boys and Girls Country with everything to grow from a small patch of land into an amazing facility supporting the lives of our cottage families, College & Career program and staff. This year, we look back with fondness on the history of this mission and how it came to bless the lives of more than 1,600 children over the years.
The idea to create a residential program to help young boys on juvenile probation originated in the 1960s by Wardell Leisk. He later approached T. A. “Tom” Robinson, Jr., owner of First Mortgage Co. of Texas, who became the guiding force behind the organization. At a time when most men are looking forward to retirement, Mr. Robinson devoted the next 20 years of his life to this cause.
He initially donated 10 acres of land in the Hockley area where the facilities stand today. Over the years, more acreage was donated by Mr. Robinson and additional acreage was purchased, bringing the campus to 216 acres. Tom Robinson and his wife, Jean, didn’t want to raise the boys in a barren land. Every Sunday after church, they would go down to Buffalo Bayou, get on their hands and knees and gather saplings in their hands. Then, they would drive out to Boys Country, get back on their hands and knees and bury the saplings on their land.
The name “Boys Country” was chosen by Mrs. Robinson. Mr. Robinson, in addition to making the majority of the capital contributions and underwriting operating expenses, personally guaranteed many loans so the building program could continue. Mr. Robinson’s visionary contribution was matched by that of another leader he recruited, Jack Brewer, a Youth Director at Tallowood Baptist Church, whose guidance and expertise proved invaluable over the years.
In 1971, Boys Country began with three mobile buildings, a metallic building and its first dormitory under construction. Progress developed rapidly with 24 boys enrolled by the end of the first year, as well as four heads of Santa Gertrudis cattle in the livestock operation and a one- teacher school to assist the boys with their studies.
The closing bank balance in May 1971 was a miraculous $678.96. Within six months, however, Boys Country secured $50,000 in grants to build one staff house and begin a vocational program while expanding enrollment to 35 boys. A master campus construction plan for the next ten years was presented.
It was the vision of these fearless leaders to turn confused, abandoned and hopeless youth into productive, responsible citizens by providing a loving, Christian environment, an education, a vocational training program and a shared sense of responsibility.
By 1974, Boys Country was a home for 40 boys. Within a year, the funding for the school, administration building and gymnasium was secured. Boys Country leadership also announced a plan to construct four total-care cottages (with each cottage accommodating 12-16 boys and teaching parents), a complete sanitary sewer system, commissary, barbershop, dispensary and enclosure of the gymnasium. This was an ambitious plan to improve the quality of the residential services offered to the children and provide other resources paramount for a healthy upbringing.
During that time the Ladies’ Auxiliary was founded, raising $10,000 in its first year. The auxiliary was a major force behind the success of the organization’s growth. They started Spring Festival as a barbecue and steer auction to raise funds for Boys Country
In the late ‘70s, four cottages were constructed and furnished at a cost of $90,000 each. The ranch added a 250-chicken facility, and a commercial laundromat was installed on campus. The renovations started on the original dormitory to convert it into a commissary, clothing closet and staff living quarters.
By the end of the decade, Boys Country was licensed to care for 130 boys. The improved square footage and added facilities classified the operation as the second-largest boy’s ranch in Texas.
In 1980 Boys Country opened two new cottages and expanded its total population (staff and children) to 141. With a budget of more than $600,000, the staff had expanded from three to thirty-one. The program now included vocational, agricultural, and horticultural training, a complete athletic program and chapel services.
Later that year the executive committee approved plans for a facility for girls, ages 5 to 10 years old. The program was located on FM 2920 and was designed to care for young girls from broken homes who had been abused or neglected. The siblings of Boys Country youth were given priority placement. Plans for the facility included a six-acre lake, a road system and two cottages.
In February 1982, Girls Country announced plans to open a Christian school on its campus. It began with a kindergarten. The original plan was to add one grade each year until all grades through high school graduation were offered. Future buildings of the school were to be added to the Spindletop Chapel which was completed in May. The school was later renamed Rosehill Christian School, and by 1989 the board of directors decided to focus on child care and allow the school to become an independent entity.
By 1992, Boys Country’s beautiful oak-shaded campus and farm encompassed 166 acres with 20 major buildings. Girls Country provided 40 acres of serenity nestled among a lake and tall pine trees with eight major buildings.
In 1993, Boys Country and Girls Country programs were combined, and the organization was renamed Boys and Girls Country of Houston, Inc. During that time, the cottages became limited to eight children per cottage according to state-licensing requirements. Some exciting additions to campus included a 12-station computer lab and a 4-H program.
What is now known as the College and Career Program began in 1996 as the Independent Living Skills Program. This program was created to provide support for high school graduates of Boys and Girls Country as they choose to go through trade school or college.
As the College and Career Program expanded, housing for Boys and Girls Country’s high school graduates began on the 2920 campus in 2001. This allowed every graduate to have “a bed to come home to” as they transitioned into self-supporting adulthood.
Thanks to the success of the capital and endowment campaign that started in 1998, updates and additions to campus were made in the early 2000’s. The 11 cottages were renovated, and the Community Life Building was updated. A new education building, the Kelly Gene Cook Sr. Administration and Admissions building and the Alexander Operations Center were added.
Staff training was enhanced and new models embraced, including the Family Teaching Model, Therapeutic Crisis Intervention and Normative Culture. These tools helped the direct care staff meet the growing needs of residents while maintaining the family atmosphere in a Christian environment.
In 2007, a new swimming pool was completed thanks to the generosity of two anonymous donors. At the end of 2007, planning was underway for infrastructure rehabilitation, security, lighting and a new student life center, which was possible through the Growing for the Future capital campaign.
The Penny Loyd Student Life Center, an educational and recreational facility, replaced the 30-year-old gym in August 2009. The following year the old gym was demolished, and the land became a park in the center of campus.
From 2012 to 2014, the remainder of the Growing for the Future projects included the exercise tracks, soccer field, bike and game storage, night lighting, storage units, Staff House 4, the Sim-Tex baseball field and a new water well. The Joe H. and Sue S. Reynolds Foundation Chapel was completed and dedicated in 2012.
The rebuild of the 11 cottages began in 2015 with Watford cottage being completed in 2016, Pool Cottage in 2017, Hamill Cottage in 2018 and Woodforest Cottage in 2020. The new cottages are energy efficient and feature larger living quarters for the teaching parents as well as a private room, a bathroom and a closet for each child.
As Boys and Girls Country enters the next 50 years, we pray to continue to help children of families in crisis by providing them a loving, stable and secure Christian home. We look forward to growing as a community and helping even more children, which is only possible with God, our generous donors and our faithful supporters. It has truly been a blessed first 50 years, and we look forward to celebrating many more milestones at Boys and Girls Country!