WinShape Homes—Chick-fil-A’s Best-Kept Secret

Wanted: Grandchildren who need a permanent, loving, secure home with full-time parents. WinShape Homes has immediate openings. All expenses paid, including college!

GRAND’s publisher, Christine Crosby, recently sat down with GRANDdaddy S. Truett Cathy, 88, and his wife of 61 years, Jeannette, to learn more about WinShape Homes [http://www.winshape.org/homes/2.0/]. These are group homes where children are provided a permanent home with two loving full-time parents, summer camp, a college education and much more.

S. Truett Cathy is the founder of Chick-fil-A, a $3 billion privately held, family-run business. You might think that would be more than enough to keep a person busy along with raising three children and enjoying 12 grandchildren and five great grandchildren. But Truett’s dream goes beyond leading one of America’s most respected corporations that provides delicious and efficient food six days a week at over 1,400 locations nationwide. In fact, Truett is a grand example of what it takes to go from rags to riches in America.

Truett grew up in Atlanta’s first federally funded housing project helping his mother manage a boarding house. Truett’s mother was his role model; his father, a victim of the Great Depression who lost everything, suffered from severe depression. Truett learned to cook and clean, and he developed a strong work ethic along the way. When Truett was 8, he went to work to help earn money for his family, delivering newspapers and selling Coca-Colas.

In 1946, when he returned from military service, Truett and his brother opened a small restaurant in Hapeville, Georgia, called The Dwarf Grill. In 1961 Truett invented the boneless breast of chicken sandwich, calling it “Chick-fil-A,” and in 1967 their first Chick fil-A restaurant opened.

In 1984 the Cathy family established the WinShape Foundation to help young people succeed in life through scholarships and other youth-support programs. The name comes from their goal to “shape winners” by helping young people succeed in life. The first WinShape Foster Home was established in Mt. Berry, Georgia, in 1987. According to Tyra Walker, Director of WinShape Homes, after a brief application and a psychological evaluation, children are welcomed into one of the 12 existing group homes in Georgia, Tennessee and Alabama; siblings can stay together. “If it is a good fit, there is a meet-and-greet for the child to meet the home parents and other children. These children have been permanently removed from their homes by the courts usually because the parents were deemed permanently unfit to care for their children. Drug addiction is cited as the number-one reason for these sad circumstances.” The only kids that WinShape cannot serve are those with severe psychological problems that are acted out by cruelty to animals, drug use or violent behavior.

Word of mouth is how most of the kids are referred to WinShape. If you know of a deserving child, please click here [http://www.winshape.org/homes/2.0/]. WinShape provides education, health care and many extras if the child has an interest in hobbies, sports, or music. There is a piano in every home because Mr. Cathy thinks all children should have a chance to learn to play the piano. All the WinShape kids enjoy two weeks each summer at Camp WinShape. College or a trade school is available if that is what the child wants. All the kids are encouraged to work during high school so they can save their money. When the kids turn 18, Truett matches them dollar for dollar to buy a car.

Tyra says she is most proud of the WinShape house parents because they persevere day after day. When they sign on for custody, they sign on for good and bad. The house parents have a background in child care and are very carefully screened. Each house has a case worker assigned, and each child has regular sessions with a psychologist to help them keep on top of the things going on in their lives.

In 1985 WinShape Foundation opened Camp WinShape for boys with the theme “It is better to build boys than to mend men.” In 1987 a girls camp was opened on the main campus of Berry College. The camp involves Indian lore programs that give the kids different Indian ranks as they develop morally, physically and spiritually, and where they enjoy swimming, tennis, archery, hiking and more on this 28,000-acre playground [http://www.winshape.org/camps/camp07/].

Part of the WinShape core belief is that you can’t be a good parent unless your marriage is strong, which is why the WinShape Retreat for marriage enrichment was born as a high-end retreat on the Mountain Campus of Berry College. Don (Bubba) Cathy, the youngest son of Truett and Jeannette, runs the center [http://www.winshaperetreat.org/].

Says Truett, “The father is the chief executive officer of the greatest institute in the world: the family. Make Sunday family day instead of going to play golf or watch football. What we need today are some good, stable marriages, and the most important thing you can give to children is your time.”

7 reminders for building children

By S. Truett Cathy, founder and chairman of Chick-fil-A

• Every child I know who overcame long odds and grew into a responsible person owes it to an adult who stepped into his or her life as a friend, mentor and guide.

• Don’t be too concerned that your children don’t listen to you. But be very concerned that they see everything you do.

• Be so consistent in your discipline that you’re boring.

• Stop arguing in front of your children.

• You may think children have outgrown the desire to be rocked to sleep at night. They haven’t.

• Children will never believe in the covenant of marriage unless they see it with their own eyes.

• How do you know if a child needs encouragement? If he or she is breathing.

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