CEREDO, W.Va. -- Golden Girl Group Home is a family. For Judy Gilkerson, for her daughter, for her granddaughter, and for hundreds of lost girls, it is a place to flourish.
Gilkerson started the home in 1983 to help dependent, neglected and pre-delinquent girls who are unable to make a successful adjustment in their natural homes or in foster care. Licensed by the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, the program encourages positive change and growth through educational, recreational, treatment and support services. But it's more than clinical, more than just another faceless stop on the way to adulthood.
This is a sanctuary -- a home. Teen-age girls share brightly decorated rooms and gather in cozy living rooms for television and homework. Chores are posted on the refrigerator, just like in any other kitchen in the quaint Ceredo neighborhood in Wayne County.
What started as one white clapboard house on a quiet corner has grown into three houses, side by side, connected by the program that helps these girls find their way through the often turbulent, and sometimes lonely, teen years.
Judy Gilkerson saw a need 28 years ago. A teacher at East High School in Huntington, she was expecting her third child. With a shoestring budget and a lot of prayer, she bought a house and took in nine girls.
"We knew it was the right thing to do," Gilkerson said. "Large things come from small things. We started with nine girls, we lived with them and learned day to day to day -- one day at a time."
Five hundred girls have gone through the program. There are 24 living there now, ages 12 to 19. They go to Spring Valley High School, Ceredo-Kenova and Vinson middle schools, and attend GED classes. There is a transitional program available for girls over 18 where they can live in an apartment until they are 21 as long as they are attending some sort of school.