In 1971, McLean Baptist Church started reaching out to runaways in the Northern Virginia area. The next year other churches and religious organizations got involved, eventually calling the project “Juvenile Assistance of McLean,” and then later, “Alternative House.” This project would turn into what is now Second Story’s Emergency Shelter for Teenagers.
That same year, a 12 year old boy named Johnny ran away from home. His parents were divorced and fighting about who would get custody of him, and home had become so angry and stressful that Johnny decided any other place would be better. He slept on the streets for a while, until someone told him about a house for runaways that could help him — it was McLean Baptist Church’s outreach, the earliest stages of Second Story’s shelter.
The shelter changed everything for Johnny. He found a safer place to live, and eventually was emancipated from his parents so that the source of conflict — the custody battle — would go away. “Without Second Story I would probably be in jail,” Johnny reflects. Instead, he lives here in Northern Virginia, a married father of two, a commercial real estate developer, and a fierce advocate for our work.
Two decades later, Johnny’s daughter, Merrill, came to her dad distraught and desperate. She had been struggling for a while — acting out and hanging out with the wrong people, and her parents were worried. “I knew exactly who to call,” Johnny said. They took Merrill to Second Story, where she unloaded a horrifying secret, one that had been eating away at her for years. It was a turning point for Merrill, and for their family.
Johnny and Merrill Chanel are eager to say that Second Story has changed not just their two lives but their entire family.
*Note: This is a special story to help announce something special — the Second Stories podcast. Johnny and Merrill’s story will be told through the podcast in the next few weeks. We hope you’ll learn more!