BUCKHANNON — Chuck Loudin, Director of the Child Development Center (CDC), will be retiring soon. In the CDC family, students are affectionately called “my CDC kids” by Chuck. As one of “Mr. Chuck’s kids,” and a CDC graduate, I wanted to thank him for making a difference. Dr. Greenbrier Almond, who is helping me with my writing, encouraged me to remember how Chuck Loudin made a difference in my life.
We are ALL called to make a difference. Chuck Loudin, with encouragement from “Mrs. Chuck,” his wife, aka Rose Ellen, answered that call when he became the director of the CDC. Chuck wrote on his Facebook post for his anniversary of what he calls the most important day in his life (the day he met Rose Ellen) that she gave him confidence to find a career that made a difference in the world.
When I think of Chuck Loudin and the CDC, I think of love. Love is patient, is kind, and forgives. Love is not easily angered. Mr. Chuck made me feel loved from the minute I walked through the CDC’s front doors. He was always happy to see me. He had hugs ready for me. He knew me. He knew what was important to me. He would ask about my grandparents. He knew when they were sick that I would be worried about them. He would ask about my ponies, puppies, kittens. He knew I danced, and he even knew my ballet teacher, Nina Scattaregia. He knew I feared going underwater during swimming lessons. He praised me when I conquered that fear and learned to swim. He knew me, and he encouraged me to learn and to grow.
He gave of himself in every aspect of the CDC life. He could be found in his office talking with a parent or performing surgery—splinter removal. He was way better than my mom, a physician assistant, at removing splinters! He fed babies, changed diapers, and read stories. He appeared giant-like to my four-year-old imagination as he climbed to the CDC rooftop to make repairs. He could be found in the kitchen if they were short staffed. He shoveled snow off of the sidewalks. He served as judge and jury when a little boy bit my arm. He helped me to forgive the biter. Plumbing, carpentry, he did it all. When the CDC smoke alarms went off, Fireman Chuck came to the rescue. I cannot remember what happened other than the smoke, the very loud alarms ringing and Mr. Chuck reassuring me, making me feel safe. He taught us by example that we could be anything that we wanted to be as long as we were safe. We were always safe at the CDC. There is a song written and recorded by Fred Rogers of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” titled “There Are Many Ways To Say I Love You.” This song and Mr. Rogers remind me of Mr. Chuck and everything that Mr. Chuck did for me, his other CDC kids, and the CDC itself. Everything he did for all of us said, “I love you.”
Mr. Chuck taught us to talk about our feelings and fears. As a guest columnist for Dr. Almond’s column “Lesson Learned,” I previously wrote about Mr. Chuck and Mr. Rogers. When everything shut down in March of 2020, I remember my mom watching a few episodes of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.” I watched with her. Mr. Rogers, a kind, gentle and caring person, like Mr. Chuck, encouraged talking about feelings and fears. We then listened to Mr. Chuck, the Mr. Rogers in my neighborhood, as he read stories on Facebook. We loved the story he wrote and illustrated about the squirrel being helped by his neighbors. How nice for us to hear his familiar voice! His stories and hearing his voice again made me feel safe and loved. Mr. Chuck has always made a difference for his CDC kids in good times; he continues making a difference during the trying times of the pandemic.
Seven-year-old Ava Hinkle, another one of Mr. Chuck’s CDC kids, a current CDC student and artist, drew some beautiful pictures for Chuck when she heard of his upcoming retirement. Ava told him, “Chuck, when you retire, I’m going to cry.” Ava, you won’t be crying alone! I’ll be right there with you, as will many others. I know Chuck Loudin promised you that he will still be around, he won’t disappear. He is so much a part of our Buckhannon community family. His CDC graduates now attend elementary school, middle school and high school, like me. Dr. Almond showed me the Upshur County Schools student-designed shirt. The shirt has the American Sign Language (ASL) sign for “love.” The students used the ASL sign for love to symbolize their unity of purpose. That sign brought back memories of my learning sign language at the CDC. I can still sign a little of some of the songs that I remember, such as “Milton the Mouse” and “More Milk Please.” I know the signs for “love” and “I love you” will forever be connected with my memories of Mr. Chuck and the CDC.
I believe God gives us people in our lives who love us and encourage us to learn and grow. I believe those people are called to make a difference in who we are, and in who we will be in the future. How blessed I am to be a “Mr. Chuck’s kid!” Thank you, Mr. Chuck, for answering that call! Thank you, Chuck Loudin, for making a difference! Your CDC kids are writers, dancers, musicians, athletes, homecoming royalty, college students, artists and so much more. We are the future. We will always be “Mr. Chuck’s kids”! And Mr. Chuck, I love you!