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Gathering surprises Blackwell with day of fun - City renames street in his honor

August 9, 2013

By J. Blake Ragsdale

What do you give a man who has dedicated three decades of his life to serving children? According to Michael C. Blackwell, who marked his 30th anniversary as Baptist Children’s Homes (BCH) president on July 1, the answer is “nothing.”

“I had zero expectations,” Blackwell says. “When I was asked by some of our staff members earlier in the year about planning a special recognition, I told them to do nothing.”

Instead, BCH’s staff members chose the opposite approach. A committee organized a fun day to be held at Mills Home to celebrate Blackwell’s service.

“I guess they didn’t listen very well,” Blackwell laughs.

Staff members, trustees and children gathered beneath stately trees in front of York Cottage on the Thomasville campus the morning of June 27. Inflatables, bounce houses, snow cones, barbecue, and a gospel bluegrass band from First Baptist Church of Carthage where Blackwell once pastored greeted Blackwell as he and his wife Catherine arrived at the celebration.

“Despite his wishes, there was no way we could let this milestone pass without doing something special for him,” explains BCH executive vice president Brenda Gray. “We wanted it to be a fun and relaxed day where he could simply visit with the children and staff.”

“You could not ask for a greater gift than the gift of time – time to spend with these incredible children, trustees and staff,” Blackwell says.

The trustees, planning committee and the City of Thomasville had a couple of extra surprises up their collective sleeves.

As a special gift, the trustees donated funds to the Michael C. Blackwell Endowment, a fund that supports BCH?and its residents. Blackwell was also presented with framed portraits of the two baptisms he performed for BCH?residents last year.

For the finale, Thomasville mayor Joe Bennett and BCH trustee chair Gayla Freeman surprised BCH’s president when they unveiled a street sign reading “Blackwell Boulevard.”

“Dr. Blackwell has meant so much to this city, BCH and this campus,” said Mayor Bennett. “We’re blessed to be celebrating 30 years of him being with us here in Thomasville.”

Formerly Watson Avenue, the city renamed the public road in Blackwell’s honor. The street is the main entrance to Mills Home and extends from the front archway to Watson Circle, which is named for one of BCH’s founding donors.

“I’m stunned. I could have never imagined something like this,” Blackwell confesses. “I'm humbled and honored at the same time. It’s an honor I don’t deserve, but I accept it in honor of our staff, children and the board of trustees.”