Henrico County VA

A nest refilled

Henrico couple fosters dozens of children
A young visitor enjoys the festivities
at CCC’s holiday party
At the age of eight, Jamie Murray turned to his parents one day and asked why he didn't have any brothers or sisters.

Retta and Ben Murray responded by contacting Henrico County's Department of Social Services, and before long, Jamie had himself a foster sibling.

But the Murrays didn't stop there. Two years later, they began working with Commonwealth Catholic Charities' Refugee Resettlement program, taking in children who have come to the United States from countries that include Haiti, Guatemala, Honduras, North Korea and Sudan.

In the years since, Jamie Murray (now 21) has had an estimated 50 or 60 siblings come to live in his home, for periods ranging from an overnight or weekend to seven years.

At a holiday party held last month for CCC foster families, Ben Murray joined his wife in reminiscing about their first 13 years as foster parents, and noted with amusement that Jamie was not quite so gung ho about having siblings later on -- even hinting occasionally that his parents could quit fostering any time.

His later reluctance was only natural, remarked Ben, considering that Jamie's earlier siblings were playmates and often younger than he was, "so he was a big brother."

"But then," added Ben, "they became teens with attitudes, and he was not so sure."

No empty nest
His parents, on the other hand, are quite sure they want to continue fostering.

In December they were fostering a 15-year-old from Mexico, an 18-year-old from Ecuador, and a 16-year-old from The Congo.

Although their charges are teenagers and young adults, they tend to demand more time and attention than typical foster children.

"They have more drama in their life," said Ben. "Or something traumatic has happened. Some don't know if their mother or father is dead or alive. Especially the Sudanese, because they came from a war-torn country."

As Julie Atkinson of CCC pointed out in a September announcement about the resettlement program, "Most kids [at back-to-school time] are worried about classes, clothes and seeing friends again.

"For refugee kids in foster care, the concerns are much bigger. They are learning a new language, new customs, and a new way of life."

An employee of the Richmond Sheriffs Office, Ben said that his wife was formerly a private duty nurse, but now stays home to be a full-time mom. Her days are filled with errands and appointments, from obtaining immunizations, physical exams and ADD medication for the children, to transporting them to psychological counseling and therapy.

Asked why they would continue to foster special-needs children at a time when other parents of college students are reveling in their empty nests, Ben answered with the reason they got involved with CCC in the first place.

"We knew there was a need," he said simply.

‘They’ve all taught us something new’
Among the most challenging tasks Ben and Retta have faced was fostering a child who kept running away or coming in after curfew.

"Every weekend it was a challenge," said Ben. "Every time I turned around I had Henrico police in front of my door."

"I told him, 'If we're going to be here to watch over you, we need to know where you are,'" said Retta; while Ben would admonish, "I can't raise you up in the street."

Sharing space with the more rebellious foster children was hard on Jamie, said Ben.

"He would get upset when they'd get sassy or smart or disrespectful," said Ben. "But I would just tell him, 'Me and Mama are going to handle that.'"

Although they eventually had to send the runaway back to his caseworker, most of the Murray children have thrived in their care and are appreciative. Ben said he will never forget the North Korean boy of about 14 who would back out of the room bowing after dinner, to show his respect and gratitude for the meal.

Building relationships with youth from varied backgrounds and cultures has benefited the Murrays as well, said Ben. "We've had [children from] a lot of different countries," said Ben, "and they've all taught us something new."

In addition to learning to cook foods from many nations, they have enjoyed introducing the children to new foods -- of which fried chicken is the hands-down favorite -- and teaching them skills such as helping with car care and yard work.

They have also had the satisfaction of seeing the children progress from speaking no English to mastering the language, and looking on as they hold down jobs, graduate high school, and go to college.

Best of all, said Ben, is seeing the children "adopt good family values over the years, and continue to live a good Christian life."

The Murrays keep in touch with former foster children all over the country, including one that they visited while in Florida on vacation, and another who recently flew in from Arizona to see them.

The one in Florida, said Ben, calls about once a week. "And if he doesn't call us, we call him!"

Asked what advice he would give to someone considering foster parenting, Ben acknowledged that the experience is not for everyone.

"People should really search their heart and make sure they're willing," he said, "because it will be different! You really have to be passionate, loving, caring and understanding, because a lot of time kids do [hurtful] things -- not meaning any harm."

And the return for dealing with those "things kids do"?

"Being a foster parent is off the scale," said Ben Murray with a smile. "It's work, but it's rewarding.

"It's really a joy.”
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Community

RAMPS receives $8k grant


RAMPS (Ramp Access Made Possible by Students) recently received an $8,000 grant from the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation. The award was one of 75 grants totaling more than $600,137 awarded by the Reeve Foundation to nonprofit organizations nationwide that provide more opportunities, access, and daily quality of life for individuals living with paralysis, their families and caregivers.

RAMPS, an organization founded by then-Henrico County high school students to build ramps for local low-income residents who need them, will use the grant to purchase modular wheelchair ramp supplies. These supplies will be used by local high school RAMPS clubs, who provide volunteers to build the ramps. > Read more.

Henrico man to compete in Liberty Mutual Invitational National Finals

Henrico resident Larry Loving, Jr., will compete with three other locals – Thomas Scribner (Richmond), Roscoe McGhee (Midlothian) and Larry Loving (Richmond) in the Liberty Mutual Insurance Invitational National Finals at TPC Sawgrass, in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., Feb. 26-Mar. 1. The foursome qualified for the national golf tournament by winning the Liberty Mutual Insurance Invitational, held at Whiskey Creek Golf Club in Ijamsville, Md. on June 11. That event supported the RiteCare Center for Childhood Language Disorders.

In total, 240 amateur golfers will compete in Florida. > Read more.

Henrico PAL recognizes supporters, HSHS athlete


The Henrico Police Athletic League (PAL) held its Sixth Annual Awards Banquet Feb. 5 at The Cultural Arts Center of Glen Allen, celebrating accomplishments of 2014 and recognizing outstanding contributions to the organization. Henrico County Juvenile Domestic Court Judge Denis Soden served as master of ceremonies and former Harlem Globetrotter Melvin Adams served as keynote speaker. 

Among the 2014 honorees were Richmond International Raceway (Significant Supporter), Richmond Strikers Soccer Club (Significant Supporter), Henrico County Schools-Pupil Transportation (Summer Camp Supporter), Bruce Richardson, Jr. (Youth of the Year), Sandra Williams (Volunteer of the Year), Thomas Williams (Employee of the Year), Mikki Pleasants (Board Member of the Year), and Michelle Sheehan (Police Officer of the Year).   > Read more.

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Entertainment

Travinia brings contemporary elegance to Willow Lawn


It was another win for Willow Lawn when Travinia Italian Kitchen and Wine Bar opened there six months ago, nestled in the heart of the re-made shopping center. The contemporary American Italian restaurant boasts 13 locations up and down the East Coast, with the Henrico location opening in August.

In the same week, I hit up Travinia twice, once for lunch and once for a late dinner. At lunchtime on a weekday, I was overwhelmed by the smell of garlic and by the number of working professionals in nice suits on their lunch breaks. When we first walked in, I was concerned our meal would be a little too pricey based on the décor – it’s a really nice place. Luckily, the menu has a variety of options for every budget. > Read more.

Soak up the fun

‘SpongeBob’ movie energizes with wit, laughter

There’s a ton of sugar in The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water. Literal sugar, as SpongeBob Squarepants (Tom Kenny) and Patrick (Bill Fagerbakke) inhale their own weight in cotton candy and eat ice cream, one scoop per mouthful.

At one point we burrow into the brain of our boxy yellow hero and discover the inner workings of his brain: googly-eyed cakes and candies that giggle and sing. All of which is extremely appropriate for a film like Sponge Out of Water. Because not only is the movie sweet (the “awwww” kind of sweet), but it’s the equivalent of a 30-candy bar sugar rush, zipping between ideas like a sponge on rocket skates.

The story under all this is really not that complicated. SpongeBob flips burgers at the Krusty Krab. > Read more.

Weekend Top 10


With this last round of snow still fresh on the ground, the best way to start the weekend may be at Southern Season for their weekly wine-tasting program, Fridays Uncorked. Families with cabin fever will enjoy the Richmond Kids Expo, taking place tomorrow at the Richmond Raceway Complex. Some date night options include the Rock & Roll Jubilee at The Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen, HATTheatre’s production of “The Whale” and National Theatre Live’s “Treasure Island” at the University of Richmond. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

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