Kingswood Home for Children began the New Year with a new executive director.

Will Martin is the new executive director of Kingswood Home for Children in Bean Station. Martin, who replaces Gene Whaley, began his new duties on Jan. 2.

Martin comes to Kingswood from Holston United Methodist Home for Children in Greeneville. He brings 17 years of children’s care experience to his new job.

He has also been a pastor for the last 20 years. He pastored in Florida for 10 years, then came to Greeneville in 2009 to plant a church, Freedom Fellowship, a second campus for the original church in White Pine. He served as a pastor in New Hampshire for two years before coming back to Greeneville in 2017. He served as an interim pastor while working for Holston Home.

“I offer leadership, passion, compassion, organization. This falls right into my wheelhouse,” Martin said. “Over the years, I’ve done so much of the bits and pieces necessary to go into this role here. All of those have been building blocks accumulated into what I’m able to do here now.

“I want to change the messaging of what Kingswood Home is and what we do,” Martin said. “Because being around for 80 years, we have been a lot of different things all over the different seasons.”

Martin said that Kingswood used to be the old Tate Springs Resort, a golf course, an alternative school and a place for “bad” kids over the years.

“What we are now is a children’s home,” Martin said. “Children come here and they need for people to invest in their lives so that we can change their futures.”

Thousands of children have come through Kingswood Home’s doors. Kingswood was founded by Rev. A.E. Wachtel in 1943. It is fitting that a minister is coming in to see to the needs of children, much like Rev. Wachtel did.

Martin felt led by God to come to Kingswood.

“I felt led by God through a lot of prayer,” he said. “I felt like this was the next step because my wife and children have been involved in some type of foster and adoptive orphan care over the years. We felt the peace of God as a family to come here.”

Martin is married and has nine children. Three of the children were adopted through a local foster care agency.

Kingswood Chairperson Leah Taylor echoed Martin’s statement.

“God doesn’t waste a moment,” Taylor said. “He prepares each step before you. He leads you from one step to another. He will take you where He wants to go.

Kingwood currently has 21 children on campus. There are five cottages open that can house up to eight children each. Another cottage is getting some finishing touches to open.

“This number is the lowest number of children we’ve had since I’ve been here,” Taylor said. “Our average has been in the 30s. We will be able to house (up to) 54 children.”

Eight to 10 children went home before the holidays, according to Martin.

“We are a pre-foster care placement,” Martin said. “It can be a willing placement by parents or grandparents or an open Department of Children’s Services case just prior to children going into foster care.”

Taylor said that the goal of Kingswood is to reunify children with their families if possible. The final decision rests with the court system.

Kingswood is an agency of the United Way of Hamblen County.