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Historical Summary

The History of the Free Will Baptist Children’s Home is a testament to the reality of God’s love and wondrous abilities, as well as a testament to the miracles that evolved from faith, dedication, determination, and hard work. Through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, during the first part of this century Original Free Will Baptists were led to see the need to establish a home for orphans.

The various Original Free Will Baptist conferences and associations, which embraced the entire state, were joined together in the formation of the North Carolina State Convention of Original Free Will Baptists in the year 1913. The formation of a home for children became the first statewide project of the newly formed Convention in 1914, at the second annual session of the Convention, held at Saint Mary’s Free Will Baptist Church in New Bern, North Carolina. The following resolution was discussed and adopted: (Reprinted from page 6 of the minutes of the second annual session of the State Convention of the Free Will Baptist of North Carolina, September 16, 17, 18, 1914).

“We, the Convention, recommend that we at once take steps to locate and build an orphanage the Free Will Baptists of North Carolina.”
 
“We further recommend to our various conferences that they arrange at their next meeting, plans to put this matter before their people.”
 
“We also recommend that they confer or report to the next State Convention as to how they will push this purpose for perfection.”
 
“We further recommend that a copy of the report be read before the various conferences of the Free Will Baptist churches of North Carolina.”

In the third annual session of the State Convention held at Shady Grove Free Will Baptist Church, Sampson County, September, 1915, the Convention pledged itself to build a home for orphans. An orphanage committee was appointed and given the duty to handle all money raised for the orphanage, locate a site, and report what was being done through the Free Will Baptist paper. This first committee consisted of Elder J.F. Casey, Chairman, Goldsboro, NC, Elder W.R. Coates, Four Oaks, NC, Elder M. C. Prescott, Ayden, NC, Elder J. E. Davis, Western Conference; Elder D. W. Alexander, Central Conference; Elder Luke Wetherington, Eastern Conference, The trustees, working as canvassing agents, were allowed to keep ten percent of what they actually collected to defray expenses while in their various fields collecting. These individuals served faithfully and productively, for the dream became a reality within five short years.

The newly-elected trustee committee had a difficult task before them. The Convention was committed to establishing a home; however, it owned no property or land, and had no funds with which to begin. The trustees began work immediately. Several sites throughout the state were suggested as possible locations; the trustees visited each site and its surrounding community. They decided upon a tract of land that was being offered about two miles north of the small farming town of Middlesex. It was a rural setting with plenty of space for growing children, and it was centrally located in North Carolina.

On January 1, 1916, the trustees accepted the fifty-acre tract of land that was donated by Reverend Ben B. Deans and his wife, Sally Valentine Deans. On this site was a one frame dwelling and several small farm outbuildings. Reverend Deans became a member of the board of trustees and was elected as chairman. Since he lived nearby, it became his duty to oversee the building project, selecting the site, securing the building plans, purchasing furniture, and having the red clay tested to see if bricks could be made from it. The Board turned its attention to approving building plans and raising funds with which to build.

Progress on the first building was very slow and somewhat discouraging due to lack of funds. However, those in charge refused to give up, and continued to go ahead “on faith”. Near the end of 1916, the first building project began – a large three-story building with a full basement. After completion two years later, this building had 31 rooms. This new building, along with the existing frame building and utility building, housed all departments of the Home until 1925. The basement contained the kitchen, dining hall, and laundry. The ground floor housed the main office, chapel and employees rooms. The girls occupied the second floor, and the boys occupied the top floor. Fruit trees, which were donated, were planted about the same time the first building was constructed.

The first applications for admission were approved on February 11, 1920. the first children were admitted on May 23, 1920 – a family of four, Nellie, Helen, Dorothy and Carl Whitley. Thus, what had only been a vision five years earlier was now a reality. The physical property had now become an orphans home, born of faith, dedication, determination and lots of plain hard work.

During those early years of the Home, at that time called Free Will Baptist Orphanage, the life-style was very strict, indicative of the times. The Home offered to the children it served, food, shelter, clothing, a secure atmosphere and hard work. All the children had chores. The girls were responsible for helping with cooking, sewing, house cleaning, laundry, and canning. The boys helped with feeding and caring for the livestock (chickens, cows, goats, hogs) and helped with the farm work (tobacco, corn, large garden, etc). In those early years, most were orphans or one-parent children.

Education was gained the first seven years by staff and educators who taught one half day, five days per week. Beginning the eighth grade, children attended Middlesex High School.

Medical services were rendered by local physicians, free of charge. For many years the home enjoyed the services of Dr. E. C. Powell of Middlesex and Dr. Josephine Newell of Bailey. Today, medical services are provided by local physicians of various specialties.

During the 1930’s the great depression occurred, and it was quite a struggle to keep the doors of the Home open. It was impossible to add new buildings and other needed facilities. It was most difficult to even provide the absolute necessities to keep the home going. In 1936, a letter was sent to creditors asking for discounts on debts, because there was not enough money on hand to pay the settlement in full. The very fact that the Home did not close is in itself a testimony to the dedication and determination of the superintendents and staff who served faithfully during this period. By the dedication and assistance of the surrounding community, churches across the state, and citizens who through their own financial difficulties shared with the “orphans,” the home remained open during this great testing period.

During the 1940’s the home began to grow strong again. A dining hall was added, complete with adequate kitchen facilities. Also, two new land purchases by the Home allowed it to expand its farming operations.

The decade of the 1950’s saw the children’s Home experience a real face lifting. New cottages, chapel, and administration building were all major projects that were completed during this period. With the end of the war, and major medical advances, the reasons for children needing a home changed. Children coming into care were not “true orphans”. They were being displaced from their families due to abuse and neglect. Like other orphanages in the state, we took the steps and made the necessary changes to meet the needs of the children. We broadened our perspective of childcare to include family reunification. The name was changed to the Free Will Baptist Children’s Home to reflect new programs to better serve children. Although the “orphanage” as we knew it, disappeared, the need to continue to provide for needy children remains.

 During the 1960’s, nearing the golden anniversary, other physical changes occurred. The lifestyle of the Home remained pretty much the same for the first forty years – a farm-style home for the children, with Christian values being taught day-to-day, with building being added as the need arose. The goal of that time was to have proper facilities to care for 100 children in dorm-type quarters. The changes in society began to affect the life-style of the Home. The children became more involved with off-campus activities.

During the 1970’s a Department of Family Services was established. The goal of this department was to help the family solve their problems to the point of reuniting, if possible; and to help the children cope with the problem of being separated from the family for whatever length of time necessary. The Home was converted into family-type living, with kitchen, dining, and laundry facilities, as well as air conditioning, installed in each cottage. The Home began placing siblings in the same cottage, when possible. By now, all formal education was received in the surrounding public schools, with a tutorial program on campus for those who needed additional assistance. On September 1, 1975, the Home became a licensed facility by the Department of Human Resources of North Carolina. In 1979, the Home ceased its farming operations and began leasing the farm land.

From the beginning through the early 1980’s, admissions were channeled through the churches. The children usually had a “sponsor” who helped to provide for their needs, - food, clothing, school supplies, etc. Often the sponsor was a Free Will Baptist Church in the child’s community. Unless their surviving parent remarried, or some relative stepped forward to provide a home for them, they lived at the home until they completed high school or college. 

In November of 1983, a Preparation for Independent Living program was established to assist older adolescents in learning decision making, in needing less external rules and structure, in becoming more responsible for their own daily routines, and in acquiring the necessary personal, educational, social, and vocational skills to function adequately and productively in everyday society. The program still exists today, and is open to high school juniors and seniors that possess an acceptable measure of emotional maturity. The name was changed to Preparation for Adult Living in 1993.

In July 1992, the Children’s Home expanded its services to include emergency shelter care. Genesis House, an emergency shelter in Wilson, NC, opened to serve boys and girls. However, during the first year the program changed to serve girls only, ages infant to eighteen years of age. Genesis is now located on the main campus in Middlesex, NC. Genesis House has served over five hundred children since its beginnings. 

In May 1999, Canaan House was opened as a boy’s emergency shelter. It was originally located at the Wilson property. In June 2001, the program was re-located to the Bailey property. Canaan House has served one hundred ninety-two boys through December 2004.

Emergency care programs are limited to a maximum stay of 90 days. Each of our emergency shelters serve approximately thirty-five to sixty children per year. The staff develops ways to help children handle stress and adjust to sudden changes that frequently take place in their lives. Providing a nurturing atmosphere for the children helps them deal with the trauma of suddenly being taken from their environments. The focus is to provide for their personal, medical, and emotional needs until an alternative placement is found. The children who enter are from disruptive homes and usually dealing with the emotional trauma of separation. With the cooperation of the Department of Social Services and the legal guardian, emergency care helps to resolve the problem of placement until permanent arrangements are made.  

Whether a child has one parent, two parents, or no parents, the need for children’s homes is a reality in this fast-paced world that we live. Although, the structures and programs have been modified throughout the years, one thing has remained the same for 85 years, our dedication and determination to provide a Home for children. Our current goal is to take care of the child’s physical and educational needs while ministering to their emotional and spiritual needs. Those needs are constantly changing, just as society changes. The Home endeavors to counsel with the child’s family with the hope of possible, reuniting the family. When a child cannot be reunited with his own family, the Home endeavors to provide a home here as long as the child needs it, until he or she reaches adulthood, graduates from high school, or college. The Home strives to meet as many of the needs of the children as possible and send them forth as Christian men and women, who will be a great asset for God and their fellowmen.

While here, they attend Nash County public schools, participate in extra curricular activities, and some work part-time jobs. Programs are implemented to share and instruct mature personal and social growth habits. These programs, along with provisions for physical, emotional, and spiritual training help the child become a young adult who can give back to a community. A cottage usually has six to eight children. Each child has responsibilities and chores. Consequences such as loss of privileges is the method of discipline used. Although the “orphanage” as we knew it, disappeared, many children still need a safe place to live today. Each and every child deserves stability in life. We strive to provide more than food and shelter for the children we serve. It is our goal that the child and his or her family successfully complete our programs here so if possible, they may be reunited. If this is not possible, the child can stay in our program here until they reach the age of 18, or finish school. Youth who live in children’s homes today often stay for short periods of time – sometimes as little as 30 days. And although some youth do stay until they reach the age of eighteen, the focus of group home care has shifted to the reunification of children with their families. When that is not an option, children can live with extended family members or move in a foster care home setting. 

The Free Will Baptist Children’s Home became accredited on November 1, 1999. Accreditation must be renewed every four years. The home was re-accredited in 2003 by the Council on Accreditation of Service for Families and Children. COA is an international, independent, not-for-profit, child and family service, and behavioral healthcare accrediting organization. Founded in 1977 by the Child Welfare League of America and Family Service of America, COA promotes standards, champions quality services for children, youth, and families, and advocates for the value of accreditation. COA has accredited more than 1,400 private and public organizations that serve more that 6 million individuals and families in the United States and Canada. There are nearly one hundred agencies in North Carolina who have achieved COA’s high standards. Organizations which meet these standards are among the best. This achievement helps to ensure families and children get quality services.

The Free Will Baptist Children’s Home became accredited on November 1, 1999. Accreditation must be renewed every four years. The home was re-accredited in 2003 by the Council on Accreditation of Service for Families and Children. COA is an international, independent, not-for-profit, child and family service, and behavioral healthcare accrediting organization. Founded in 1977 by the Child Welfare League of America and Family Service of America, COA promotes standards, champions quality services for children, youth, and families, and advocates for the value of accreditation. COA has accredited more than 1,400 private and public organizations that serve more that 6 million individuals and families in the United States and Canada. There are nearly one hundred agencies in North Carolina who have achieved COA’s high standards. Organizations which meet these standards are among the best. This achievement helps to ensure families and children get quality services.

Since 1920, the Children's Home has been a ministry for over 2150 children. Our Home is licensed by the Department of Human Resources of North Carolina and is a member of Child Family Services Association of North Carolina and Southeastern Child Care Association. We are accredited by the Council on Accreditation of Services for Families and Children (COA), New York.

Today, there are approximately 252 churches in the Original Free Will Baptist denomination, mostly located in Eastern North Carolina, that provide support to the Home. 

 

REMINISCING

                            

                    Original Building                                                                Boys Dorm- 1950

 

                              

            Original Dining Hall                                                                    Dinner Bell