CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – Loren Farmer has known from a very young age what she wanted to do with her life.
“In high school, I had a community service class and I got some of my hours by volunteering here at the Bob Burdette Center,” said Loren.
It’s a calling her family finds quite remarkable.
“Here I go,” Terry Friend, Loren’s father, said tearfully. “I have watched her over half of her life dedicate herself to the kids on the west side. It’s not a job to her, it comes natural to her.”
But they weren’t always in sync with her mission. After getting her sociology degree from West Virginia University, she took part in something called “Mission Year” which took her far from the Mountain State.
“Talk about crying when I dropped her off in Camden, New Jersey and the house next door is boarded up,” said Friend.
While that might have been tough on her family, Loren wasn’t discouraged, she was inspired.
“I volunteered in a middle school after school program in North Camden,” Farmer said. “That solidified for me the kind of work I wanted to do.”
Which eventually led her back to Charleston’s West Side and a position as the executive director of the center where she volunteered in high school. The “Bob Burdette Center,” a nonprofit which has provided after school programs in three locations on the West Side for the past 20 years.
“I hate to think about the amount of students who wouldn’t have been served if not for this organization being here,” said Michael Farmer, Loren’s husband. “But also, the amount of expansion she has been able to do.”
Loren’s husband is a pastor who also works with kids in the community.
“My husband and I have a very similar passion,” exclaimed Loren. “We work a lot together. I couldn’t do it without him. Our whole purpose and passion is rooted in our faith, learning how to love people the way God loves people. We need each other to do that.”
But the Farmers took it a step farther by rooting themselves in the West Side.
“I said to her, ‘this is a rough area this is where we’re at’,” added Michael. “And her response was, ‘the only way you can be a positive change is by being in the middle of the change’.”
They did just that by buying a home there.
“Our philosophy is we want to live, work, and worship in the same community,” said Loren.
“Other people may write off the West Side, but it’s one of the most loving communities I’ve ever lived in,” said Michael.
“We have kids at our house all the time and my husband plays basketball will them all the time,” said Loren.
It’s a commitment not lost on the kids in the community.
“She does her work and makes sure that all of her kids are safe,” said Keniya Richmond, Bob Burdette Center student. Loren says producing that safe place for kids after school where meals can be served and tutoring can happen also means they are less likely to be exposed to drugs or violence. And, it’s a mission she’s thankful she is not on alone.
“It’s a team effort,” said Loren. “And while I am honored to get the recognition, it’s not me. It’s everybody else and I couldn’t do it without them.”
But those who know her best say it’s Loren that this community couldn’t do without.
“She could’ve done a lot of things,” exclaimed Terry. “She has a good education. She could’ve made a lot of money I’m sure. But she does what her heart tells her.”
“Her humbleness is something that is contagious and it means a lot,” said Michael.
“They’re the bomb okay,” exclaimed Keniya.
Shortly after our interviews with Loren and her family, that family grew by one. Congratulations to the Farmers on the birth of their daughter Naomi Louise. For more information on the work Loren and her husband are doing on the West Side and how you can get involved, go to https://www.bobburdettecenter.org or http://resurrectionwv.com