Current, former residents say ‘thanks’ at Children’s Home centennial



e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service
      
 

Current, former residents say ‘thanks’ at Children’s Home centennial

May 9, 2008  News media contact: Tita Parham*
800-282-8011 
tparham@flumc.org  Orlando {0852}

An e-Review Feature
By Steven Skelley**
 
ENTERPRISE — It was almost as if they’d stepped back in time — 100 years to be exact — when the Florida United Methodist Children’s Home first opened its doors to children in need.

Florida United Methodist Children’s Home staff members Anita Barnett Campbell, director of planned giving and major gifts, and Wil Simpson, coordinator of educational services, greet visitors attending the Children’s Home’s centennial celebration in clothing typical of what was worn in 1908, the year the home was founded by the Florida Conference. Photo by Thomas Routzong. Photo #08-0853.

Nearly 2,000 people were greeted on the Children’s Home campus March 15 by staff members dressed in clothing similar to what was worn in 1908, the year the Children’s Home was founded by the Florida Conference.

Visitors toured the campus, were treated to lunch and enjoyed a special program by leaders, alumni and current residents, all in celebration of the Children’s Home’s 100th anniversary.

In the crowded auditorium, Dr. Edward Dinkins Jr., president of the Children’s Home from 1983 to 1995, called the event an opportunity to “celebrate our past and where we’re going” and spoke about how the Children’s Home had brought “a great amount of life to a great amount of children.”

One of those children was Robert Burns, now 72 years old and president of the home’s alumni association. He stood before the capacity crowd and shared how his childhood had been changed for the better by the Children’s Home.

“My father died in an accident in 1929,” he said. “My mother was left with seven children and very little education. I don’t know what would have happened to me if it weren’t for this place. They gave me food, shelter and an education. I cannot say enough thanks for what the Florida United Methodist Children’s Home has done for me.”
 
Former resident Marie Ciriot also shared how the Children’s Home had made a difference in her life and the lives of her 13 brothers and sisters after their father abandoned them.

“We lost our home and security, but we were determined to be survivors, not just victims of circumstance,” she said. “Thank God the United Methodist Children’s Home was here for us.”

Ciriot called her placement at the children’s home “the defining moment in my life” and said she would not be “the person I am today if it were not for the United Methodist Children’s Home.”

After graduating from high school and leaving the Children’s Home, Ciriot earned a college degree in recreation and returned to the Children’s Home as its recreation director and now as its coordinator for independent living.

“The children make me laugh, cry, and even make me mad, but it’s all worthwhile because I know what it’s like to live here,” she said.
 
Joining Ciriot and Burns in sharing their stories were current residents Jackie and Nicole, 13-year-old twins who have lived at the Children’s Home for about six months. “Being at the United Methodist Children’s Home has helped me with my beliefs and helped me to be a better student … ,” Nicole said. “I’d like to attend college.”

At one time, according to Burns, there were more children at the Children’s Home than living in the town of Enterprise. Original housemothers cared for 25 children each and had only one day off per month. Today, the children live in one of 11 cottages with “cottage parents” and no more than two residents to a room. Residents prepare their own meals, eating as a family, and share in taking care of the cottages.

Dr. Edward Dinkins Jr. (center), president of the Florida United Methodist Children’s Home from 1983 to 1995, removes the 25-year-old time capsule from the Children’s Home’s bell tower during the home’s centennial celebration. Photo by Steven Skelley. Photo #08-0854.

“Our aim is to make the orphanage a home, not an institution,” said the Rev. Steve Hartsfield, the home’s church relations director. “For 24 hours a day and 100 years, the United Methodist Children’s Home has been open.”

Mike Galloway, president and CEO of the Children’s Home, said the day marked a time to reflect on the past and look forward to the future. “It’s a great privilege and great opportunity to celebrate the home and the lives that have been changed,” he said.

Many people did consider it a great privilege, and for some, well worth the four hours of travel to attend.
 
Dressed in a rainbow of colorful polo shirts, the children’s choir sang: “Imagine me in a place of no insecurities, letting go of all the things that have hurt me. Imagine me being free. Finally, I can imagine me.”

Interpretive dancers danced and a young man interpreted in sign language as the choir sang.
 
The audience responded with a standing ovation.

“This is a very special and important place,” said Debbie Fisher, a member of First United Methodist Church, Apopka. “It gives kids a safe place to stay, and it’s an important part of being a Methodist.”

After the program, guests toured the campus and viewed the contents of a time capsule that had been opened earlier that day. The time capsule had been placed in the bell tower during the 75th anniversary celebration and included a list of active alumni from 1984 to 1985, photos, the 1984 United Methodist Book of Discipline and Book of Resolutions, the 1985 Florida Annual Conference Journal, news articles, a Florida map, an annual report, a 20-cent Christmas stamp, and 1984 and 1985 1-cent coins.

United Methodist church busses line the drive to the Florida United Methodist Children’s Home during it 100th anniversary celebration. Photo by Thomas Routzong. Photo #08-0855.

Located on 100 acres of land in Enterprise, not far from DeLand, the Children’s Home serves children ages 5 to 18 who are unable to live with their parents or other family members for various reasons, such as “sexual abuse, other physical abuse, abandonment or because of family breakdown due to divorce, drug abuse, illness or death of a parent,” according to the home’s Web site.

Only 20 percent to 30 percent of the home’s income is derived from state or government contracts. The majority of its funding is provided through United Methodist churches’ Fifth Sunday and Christmas offerings, individual donors, bequests, and planned gifts.
 
To commemorate the anniversary and thank Florida Conference churches for their support, the Children’s Home is giving away 750 oak trees — one to every United Methodist church in the conference. The trees were on display at the celebration.
 
The anniversary will also be celebrated May 31 at the Florida Annual Conference Event at the Lakeland Center and Oct. 4 at First United Methodist Church of Boca Raton.

More information about the Children’s Home can be found at http://www.fumch.org/.

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*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Skelley is a staff writer for e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.




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