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Broyhill upbringing brought peace to Brunck

fr brunckRoberta Brunk could have easily become a victim of circumstance. Growing up in an abusive home and being moved around to different foster homes and schools could have permanently shaped her life and set her up for disaster, but she didn’t let that happen.

“In the foster care system people can become so hard and usually a product of their environment, but I’ve been so blessed to have such wonderful people in my life that truly love me and changed the way I think,” Brunck said. “They taught me that I don’t have to be like that.”

Brunck was removed from her home when she was 10 years old after she and her two younger siblings endured years of abuse at the hands of their mother’s boyfriend. 

Brunck and her siblings were separated and placed into three different foster homes. They only got to see each other for one hour once a month — if all their schedules worked out. She always hoped that her mother would leave her abusive boyfriend, but she didn’t. She gave up parental rights in exchange for having the 52 counts of abuse and neglect against her and her boyfriend dropped.

Brunck moved through three different foster homes before she and her siblings were reunited at Broyhill Children’s Home in Clyde. No matter how toxic a family environment may be, it’s always hard to be torn away from your only parents, and it’s even harder to be torn away from your siblings as well.  

“I went through so many foster homes because they all had other kids in the home and it was just hard — it’s hard to mix that many families and it be a success. I just couldn’t find my niche where I fit,” she said. “But at Broyhill we could all be on the same campus but not necessarily in the same home.”

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Despite all of the hardships, Brunck has defied the odds by graduating high school, going to college, getting married and raising her own family in a house of faith and love. She attributes her success to her support network at Broyhill and everyone else who has shown her love throughout her life. 

“Broyhill was a safe place I could go and they took care of my needs. It was a place — now looking back — that I called home,” she said. “They gave me the stability I needed and a nurturing environment. It was a place I could lay the groundwork to be successful later on.”

Brunck said the childcare workers at Broyhill truly cared about the children. It was clear they weren’t just collecting a paycheck — they were called to be there and help others. Of course she didn’t always appreciate the structure and boundaries in place at Broyhill at the time, but now — with a 20/20 hindsight perspective — she knows they had her best interest at heart. 

Brunk lived at Broyhill from the age of 14 to 19 thanks to home’s transitional living program. So even after she aged out of the foster care system, her Broyhill network was still there to help as she attended college. Even at that age, they were still teaching her important life skills. 

“Kids don’t always take advantage of all that. There are always people who care and want to help, but a person has to be willing to receive that help if they want to be successful and grow into something different,” she said. “I don’t know if I would have been as successful without the support network encouraging me.”

Her support system at Broyhill taught her that she didn’t have to be who her parents were and that she could lead a better life. Another lesson she learned was how to forgive others in order to find peace. Not only did she break the cycle of abuse, she found a way to forgive her mother. When Brunck was pregnant with her first child, she found out that her mother finally left her abusive boyfriend and they slowly began to mend their relationship. Brunck cared for her during an extended illness several years ago and was by her side this past January before she passed away. Seeing how amazing the hospice nurses were with her mother and her entire family is what led Brunck to return to college to become a hospice nurse herself. 

“My love and compassion for people is what makes me want to be a hospice nurse,” she said. “I want to help people during their last days and help people die with grace.”

It takes a special kind of person to help people through the most difficult part of life. Brunck travels around the state through Baptist Children’s Home sharing her story of forgiveness and redemption. In 2013, she decided to put her story to paper and published her book I Choose Forgiveness. The short book tells the heartbreaking story of her childhood abuse, her time in foster care and how she chose forgiveness over a lifetime of resentment. 

Brunck still lives about a mile away from Broyhill and visits with the staff and children there at least once a week. 

“We cook supper together and the kids crawl into my lap and I read stories to them and tell them how proud I am of them for their accomplishments at school,” she said. 

Even though she knows it can be hard, Brunck encourages people to be a positive influence on children by becoming foster parents. She knows only one small action or a few words of encouragement can make a world of difference in a child’s life.

“I know it’s hard and it’s not always fair and definitely not easy and you’re not going to be able to make a difference with all of them, but it’s worth it being able to invest in someone’s life with the possibility it will take root,” she said. “There’s no guarantee of how your own kids will turn out, but you show them the right way to do things, and to me that’s what life is all about.”

With everything she has been through, she considers herself lucky for her family and the opportunities put in front of her on a daily basis. She’s lucky to have a 14-year-old daughter and a 17-year-old son who will never know what it’s like to not have supporting and loving parents to care for them.

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