Volunteer Spotlight: Brian Purcell

June 5, 2017

“WE WERE STARVING! It was terrible. I was sitting in the classroom thinking, ‘I’m so hungry,’” lamented Charterhouse School student Desire D.

Charterhouse School was founded to educate the residential youth living on the UMFS campus. Over time, the staff realized that the school’s specialized programs could also benefit day students struggling with emotional, behavioral, or developmental challenges, and autism or other neurological differences.

Today the Richmond campus has more than120 students, and the majority of them are bussed in for the day from Richmond, Henrico, Chesterfield, and other surrounding counties.

While the residential students have breakfast in their cottages before coming to school, the staff discovered that many of the day students did not get breakfast at home. They shared their concerns with Principal Kay Currie. “When you’re hungry, you’re not focused and not able to be your very best,” said Currie.

Not long before Principal Currie identified this need, Brian Purcell came knocking on the door at UMFS. Every day Brian or one of his volunteers visits Wawa, Starbucks and other local restaurants to collect food, and he was looking for organizations that could use it. He came to UMFS because his father lived here for a while as a boy. Brian appreciates the connection, “I’m walking some of the steps my dad walked.”

Brian Purcell is an ordained pastor who founded The Way to help others. He is also a popular wedding officiant, conducting up to 150 weddings each year. The money he earns from weddings is plowed back into the ministry.

When Brian heard about the need for school breakfasts he jumped into action. He’s been faithfully delivering breakfast to the school ever since. Student Cameron T. greets Brian each morning, then helps sort and deliver the food to his fellow students. “People definitely have their favorite items,” shared Cameron. The breakfasts have made a huge difference. “Since Brian started delivering the breakfasts, our mornings are less chaotic, and there has been a major improvement in the students’ attitudes,” raved Student Services Manager Sherry Glover.

Desire D. feels the difference, “My whole classroom was hungry before; it was hard to function.” Now that she has breakfast each morning at school, “I can focus on Edgar Allen Poe and William Shakespeare. We’re reading Romeo & Juliet and I can get more into it.” Taylor J. is also grateful, “Brian is a good person. He takes time for us.” The students wrote Brian thank you cards for Christmas, and he placed every card on the appreciation wall in his office. The cards provide ongoing inspiration to Brian and his volunteers. “When I have a rough day, I look at that wall.”

Thank you Brian Purcell for all you do for the students and staff at Charterhouse School. You are an unwavering champion for our students!


Volunteers like Brian Purcell make a huge difference in the lives of our children across the state. To learn more about volunteer opportunities at UMFS, visit www.umfs.org/get-involved/volunteer.