Mon, 09 Apr 2012 18:06:23 GMT — COLUMBIA (WACH)--A local children's home that's helped families for over a century, welcomes back Alumnni to lend a helping hand. "I attended here from 1947 to 1960," recounts Wilton Dennis. For 13 years Dennis just like the more than 600 other past residents called Epworth home. "Mom passing away and your father having to work and you live in a rural setting and really my father at the time didnt have enough money to really take care of us much less to, you know, bring in a childcare worker," said Dennis. Just off of Millwood Avenue, in the heart of Columbia's Shandon neighborhood, the 32-acre campus has been serving families for more than 115 years. "It was another family," said Dennis looking at the more developed campus. "We had a house mom to maybe 30 to 40 kids. I told people when I went off to college I didn't want to be in a fraternity; I already had a fraternity." Reflecting back on his days at Epworth, some of what Dennis sees there now is thanks to him. "[When I] come back here I can look today, there's two buildings still standing. This building over here and the older girls' building," said Dennis. "Just like this large tree here; I helped plant that tree " Fifty years later Dennis and other alumni are still laying foundation for current children. Each year the group hosts the Cook Out for Kids Benefit, which gives families a chance to relax and have a little fun. This year, the event will be held on Saturday, April 14 from 11 a.m. - 4 p.m. "Its gonna be a great family atmosphere its like a huge family picnic that day," said Dianne Byrdic. Byrdic is also an Epworth alumni and says aside from the fun it's a reassuring feeling that there is support out there.
"They feel a sense of community and feel like, you know, all these people are here for us. We're not just here by ourselves, you know, and forgotten. I think a lot of times when you come out here you feel like you've been taken out of your community, and I think that maybe they feel like hey the community is behind us."