Odum Home in Pembroke has served as an anchor to the Robeson County community for three quarters of a century. It has weathered ups and downs since its beginnings, but like the hundreds of children and families it has served, Odum Home has not only persevered but thrived.
Today, Baptist Children’s Homes’ (BCH) third oldest location has reached its milestone 75th anniversary. Community leaders, staff members, friends, and current and former residents came together on Saturday, October 28, to celebrate the occasion.
“Odum Home gave life to the Lumbee Indian Community, and we have made sure we have stayed close to the life of the Lumbee Indian community,” BCH President/CEO Michael C. Blackwell said. “Lumbee pride equals BCH pride, and we are very happy about that.”
Odum Home was founded as the Indian Orphanage by the Burnt Swamp Baptist Association in 1942 –– the year World War II began. It was built on a tract of land given by E.L. Odum, a local mail carrier who wanted to see the property used to help children.
The orphanage made an immediate impact in the lives of children including twins sisters Catherine Locklear and Josephine Locklear Ransom who, at the age of 14, were its first residents. But financial woes plagued the orphanage from the start.
In the late fifties, when the orphanage was in danger of closing, local leadership appealed to the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina for help. As a result, the Indian Orphanage became a part of BCH and was named Odum Home in memory of E.L. Odum.
The 75th celebration on October 28 started at Berea Baptist Church which is adjacent to Odum Home. Approximately 400 guests attended the service that included a time of worship, presentations, reflections, and preaching.
In his impassioned message, Dr. Michael Cummings, missions director at the Burnt Swamp Association, recognized Odum Home as a catalyst for overcoming racial divides.
“The story of Odum Home goes back in the days of segregation when white churches and Indian churches and black churches and Indian churches hardly did anything much together,” Cummings preached. “But because of the Gospel, we found a way to bring our communities together to do something worthy for the kingdom of God.
Reverend Cameron McGill, president of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, joined Cummings in citing BCH’s ability to inspire unity during times of transition in the North Carolina Baptist life.
“In fact, it is the Children’s Homes that has been in many cases the glue that has held us together,” McGill said to the audience. “No matter how a convention might be going, the resounding voice of Dr. Blackwell would bring us together, make our hearts melt, and make us proud to be North Carolina Baptists.”
Throughout the service, friends of Odum Home were recognized for their dedication to the 75-year-old ministry.
Abe and Jackie Elmore along with the late James and Gladys Latta were honored with “Friends of Children” awards. The Lattas gave a lead gift in memory of their late son Jimmy to build Latta Harnett Cottage. In the seventies, the Elmores led a capital campaign to raise funds to update and enhance Odum Home. In 1999, their generosity established Elmore Cottage.
“Folks, this has been one of the best things my wife and I have ever been a part of,” Elmore said.
With loved ones at their sides, sisters Locklear and Ransom were honored with BCH’s Heritage Award.
“We were treated like family here,” Ransom said. “I know that the Lord is my shepherd."
The celebration concluded with a free community event at Odum Home. Lunch was served, and the children enjoyed giant inflatable games.
While guests ate, they were treated to performances by former Odum Home social worker Lori Cole, the youth/drama choir from Mount Airy Baptist Church, and the Kau-ta-noh-jrs drum group, led by lead dancer Tamra Lowry and comprised of members of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina. Ms. Lumbee Madison Davenport also offered encouraging words to Odum’s children.
“To me, everything about the day was so heartfelt,” said Odum Home campus manager Kathy Locklear. “It is amazing to see the hearts of the donors who helped provide this wonderful place for children to live and thrive.”
Learn more at www.odumhome.org