On May 23, 1920, the Free Will Baptist Orphanage (now FWB Children's Home) opens its doors to a group of 4 siblings, bringing into existence a vision four years in the making for the Original Free Will Baptist Convention. In 1916, the Convention had appointed a committee to begin a "home for orphans" with no land, property, or funding available. The churches that made up the Convention and the newly formed board of trustees had faith that the Lord would provide the means necessary for this undertaking. Shortly afterwards Rev. and Mrs. Ben Deans donated 50 acres outside of the farming town of Middlesex, North Carolina. In the two years that followed, a large three story building with a full basement was built on the land and numerous donated fruit trees were planted on the property. This building would house all the operations of the Home until 1925.
The 1950's saw many changes to the Home, including a name change. The name was changed to the Free Will Baptist Children's Home to reflect new programs developed to better serve children. With the majority of the children in care no longer true orphans, the focus of the Home became one of caring for children, while assisting them with family reunification. Several cottages, staff housing, a church, and office building were added to the campus during this decade.
During the early years of the Home, the lifestyle was very strict (indicative of the times). The majority of the children living at the Home were orphans or had one surviving parent, who was unable to care for them. Admissions were channeled through churches and children had a "sponsor" who helped to provide for their needs. Many of these sponsors were Free Will Baptist churches in the child's home community, who provided money for clothing, school supplies, Christmas gifts, etc. Being located in a rural, farming community, the Home raised and grew the majority of its food. All the children had daily chores assigned to them. The girls were responsible for helping with cooking, laundry, sewing, cleaning, and canning. The boys helped with farming crops that could be consumed by the Home, as well as feeding and caring for the livestock (chickens, cows, hogs, and turkeys). Children in grades 1-7 were taught at the Home, attending class for a half a day during the week. Beginning in the eighth grade, the young people attended Middlesex High School. Medical care for the children was provided by local physicians, free of charge.
In the early 1980's admissions began to be processed through the Department of Social Services rather than through churches. Many of the children in care were displaced from their families due to abandonment, abuse, and neglect. The cottages functioned as family environments, with meals cooked in the cottage and eaten at the dining table as a family. Siblings were placed together when possible, helping to maintain family ties.
Today the Free Will Baptist Children's Home sits on approximately 400 acres, and has a residential program that cares for youth ages 12 and older on campus and a Family Foster Care program that serves youth from birth-18 years of age. The youth on campus live as a family in five cottages with cottage parents. They are responsible for chores, including laundry, cleaning, and assisting with meals. The cottages function similarly to a home, with everyone participating and helping one another. The Foster Care program licenses foster parents to care for children of all ages in their homes. The majority of our young people come to the Home as part of a sibling group and it is our goal to help them maintain these bonds.
In 2017 Bridge Learning Center opened on the campus of the Children's Home. This program provides before/after school care for local PreK - 5th grade students. Bridge Learning Center offers a summer program and will offer full-day curriculum-based PreK beginning the the fall of 2019.