The Florida United Methodist Children’s Home in March honored Silver Palm United Methodist Church in Homestead with its 2018 Church of the Year Award.
|Nancy Crawford shows off Silver Palm's award for the 2018 Church of the Year.|
While this was the first such honor for Silver Palm, the church’s longtime and devoted FUMCH representative, Nancy Crawford, has been honored previously.
Silver Palm was recognized for its commitment to going above and beyond the generosity of most Florida UMCs in supporting FUMCH, with two campuses in Central Florida. Every church donates about $2,000-$3,000 yearly; Silver Palm’s is about $10,000.
“It’s a great honor to be so connected to children and make such a difference in children’s lives,” Pastor Diane Gutierrez said. “Because of my history at other churches, I was surprised at how much they give here. It’s such an accomplishment of their hearts and love of children, and I’m very proud of them.”
Silver Palm congregants raise money to provide $25 gift cards, sent along with a hand-written card, for each child’s birthday. They give a $125 gift card to each high school graduate; and at Christmas, they give each child a $50 gift card.
“We were doing outreach elsewhere at Christmas and also decided to do it for the home,” Gutierrez said. “It evolved over a few years. Nancy is very innovative about how we can help the children. When she visits, she brings fresh vegetables from the fields here. That’s her baby—the Children’s Home.”
FUMCH and Silver Palm have long histories.
|The Florida United Methodist Children's Home was founded in 1908 as an orphanage and changed to its current mission in the 1950s.|
FUMCH was founded in 1908 as an orphanage and changed in the 1950s to care for abused, abandoned, or neglected children.
Silver Palm began as an Episcopal Methodist Church in 1912, was destroyed by a hurricane in 1948, and rebuilt. In the mid-1960s, it became a UMC, serving mostly educators, retired military members and farmers in the rural community.
“Nancy’s parents were pioneers of the church; her mother taught Sunday school,” said Gutierrez.
Crawford went to Florida State University, where she studied education and returned home to teach. She’s now retired. “Education and children have been a big focus here,” Gutierrez said.
Besides supporting FUMCH, Silver Palm has partnered with a nearby elementary school since 2011 to tutor students in reading and math. Originally, the tutoring was done at the church, but transportation has prevented some children from attending.
Because of that, efforts are underway to have Crawford and another retired teacher do tutoring at the school.
Silver Palm has a food pantry to provide for children who don’t have enough to eat on days when they aren’t in school, and Gutierrez said it expanded its reach in unexpected ways. Grandparents caring for their grandchildren and other senior citizens now use the pantry, as well.
When the church learned that unpaid school lunch debts could prevent students from graduating years later, they set up a fund to pay for the students’ lunches.
“This is the most amazing church in how it takes care of children,” Gutierrez said. “It’s a wonderful thing how children’s lives have been changed and made better through both Silver Palm and the Children’s Home.”
—Eileen Spiegler is a freelance writer based in Fort Lauderdale.