UF Alumni Couple Celebrates 50 Years of Helping Children and Families
by Jack Barger ‘01
The Hainleys’ story of love and compassion began decades ago on campus, and continues to inspire others nearly 300 miles away.
When Twila Jean Beery Hainley ’59 looks back on her childhood, her heart is filled with memories of moving about from the boiler room to the third floor of then Findlay College’s Old Main building. Her father, Elza Logan Beery, was the very first graduate of Winebrenner Theological Seminary, established in 1942 as a graduate school of theology of Findlay College. Beery was an ordained minister for the Churches of God Mission congregations, was an integral Findlay College fundraiser during World War II, and served on the college’s Board of Directors in the 1960s.
“I can just see my Dad’s office near the stairs of the second floor (of Old Main) and the chapel nearby,” Twila Jean said. “I was so privileged to roam around back then!” From the front window of her former house on Main Street—a house long replaced by a commercial building—she could see the Griffith Memorial Arch.
“We’ve been tied to this school for as long as I can remember,” she added. Twila Jean and her husband Kermit Hainley ’63, are members of a family that boasts many graduates of Findlay College.
The couple met at an Oilers football game, and have been virtually inseparable ever since. That connection, they said, the one that led them to meet and move through their education at Findlay College, is the same connection that guided them to start and eventually flourish with Eagle Village, the haven they founded some 50 years ago. They were able to take what they learned at college, build upon it and successfully create meaningful lives for numerous troubled children over the decades.
Hersey, Michigan is located in the northwest portion of the state’s “mitten” formation, near Cadillac. Eagle Village is set back off of the main road, and covers more than 600 acres of sprawling, thickly-wooded ground. There’s little to no cell phone service, and upon first glance, the facility looks much like every other camp; there are cabins tucked back among the red pines, and crystal-clear swimming pools behind a small grassy hill. Red canoes dot the landscape around the lake. But there’s something different about this place. Something, the Hainleys said, that starts with the heart. “We used to work mainly with delinquent children,” Twila explained. “Today we have hurting children. Kids who have been neglected, abused, rejected. A lot of trauma. The situation has changed, but the way we handle it overall has not.”
“We handle it with more heart than head,” Kermit added.
Eagle Village serves children with behavioral issues and their families. It began with a call from God to start a small group home for four boys in 1968, and has developed into a 75-bed residential facility.
The Hainleys retired from their full-time positions in 1994, but remain involved by assisting other family members who operate Eagle Village, which serves those in need in many ways. Along with being a temporary home, the location also offers intervention camps for hurting families and children, a charter school that provides job skills and other necessary training, and an adoption program. Programs that teach resiliency are also offered to schools, organizations and athletic teams.
Ultimately, Eagle Village offers help and hope for the kids and families who find themselves desperate for both. One of the primary philosophies promoted is: their past does not have to determine their future.
Having just celebrated its 50th anniversary in early summer of 2018, the facility has much to be proud of.
If there is one thing that is immediately noticeable about the Hainleys, it’s that their excitement and eagerness to tell their story bubbles over at a nearly constant pace. A pride for both their alma mater and the life that came after is always right under the surface.
“We teach these kids that they reap what they sow,” said Twila, touching upon what the two call the “Seed Planting Principles.” Developed by Kermit and based on Bible verses following “spiritual principles for relationships, family and friendships,” the principles, they say, are the foundation of all programs at Eagle Village.
“These are the kids, who, if they clean up their act, will actually be the outcast of their family,” Kermit explained. “The pattern continues until they come here.”
But many happy stories can be told as a result of the care families receive from Eagle Village.
“At our 50th anniversary celebration, a man who was one of the first Village residents, and at the time, had extreme issues, surprised us with a visit to help us celebrate,” Twila said. “He’s now a millionaire entrepreneur.”
Another Eagle Village graduate “is now at college studying social work because she wants to help people like we helped her. Lots of success,” continued Twila.
Along with serving families in need, the Michigan endeavor is a multigenerational family affair too. From Twila’s parents volunteering early in the facility’s life, to Twila and Kermit’s children and now grandchildren—of which there are currently three on staff—the family continues to have a heart for families and children with behavioral issues.
The phenomenon of Hainley generations moving through their lives together, and their collective dedication to serving many of the community’s most vulnerable members, are attributes that started and were nurtured at Findlay College.
“Since I lived right there when I was young,” Twila explained, “the college was an anchor and active part of my life for 25 years.”
The span of roots and family members runs deep and long for the Hainleys at Findlay College. Family graduates of the institution date back to 1927. Twila’s mother graduated from Findlay in 1931. Both her and Kermit’s brothers studied and played football on the same team at the College. Twila’s father was honored by Findlay in 1981 as a Distinguished Alumnus, and the Hainleys themselves were both awarded the honor in 1986.
As Findlay College has become the University of Findlay and Eagle Village moves forward from its 50th year, meaningful lives continue to be guided between the two institutions; the comparison is not lost on Twila.
“Our lives have certainly been meaningful to youth, staff and families as related to Eagle Village, and we are proud of today’s UF students,” she said. “They pursue a career path, but are still challenged to be an active part of their own community, blessing people who live there. To me, that all says meaningful living. Lots of folks who come through here say their lives began at Eagle Village. Ours together began at Findlay College.”
Eagle Village welcomes all contact and support, and continues to be committed to serving and equipping children and their families for success. For more information, visit Eaglevillage.org.