When I started working for Dr. Blackwell at Baptist Children’s Homes in March of 2019, I knew that my administrative job would be behind the scenes––a bit distant from direct childcare workers, but I had no idea of the impact that my job would have on my life and that of a young mother with six children.
On a cold winter’s morning the Sunday before Christmas 2019, April* walked the mile to First Baptist Church in High Point from the Salvation Army Hope Family Shelter where she and her children were staying. She had fled her marriage leaving behind an abusive spouse to a women’s shelter, and finally to the Salvation Army shelter. But the solutions were just temporary. Each morning they would have to get up and be out on the streets for the day before they could return in the evening. No easy feat when you have six children ages two to ten.
When they arrived at church that Sunday, I was alerted that we had some visitors to my children’s Sunday school class.
My class usually consisted of three or four children. This Sunday, it was more than doubled. Over the next weeks, I was amazed at the children’s knowledge of the Bible. I could tell April had instilled in them her love for the Lord.
I have taught this age group for 20 years and have never seen a group of children so enthused about the lessons—this wasn’t the thrill and glitz that is Vacation Bible School—this was an ordinary Sunday.
I learned from the children that their father had moved back to Texas. He abandoned them and had stopped all support. They were in North Carolina alone.
When we think of homelessness in America, we don’t often think of families with multiple children out there, and if there is a shelter, they are only designed for very short time stays––until the family can reconnect with relatives. I knew that BCH had Family Care. So, I contacted Regional Director Regina Keener at Mills Home in Thomasville to see if BCH could help. Regina and her staff moved this family to our campus just before COVID-19 struck––talk about God’s hand and His timing!
BCH’s Family Care program offers long term assistance for families like April’s. The program offers a cottage home environment where moms and their children are not sleeping in dorms with strangers. Families have their own rooms and bathrooms. There is a kitchen where moms cook for their children rather than being fed. Each family has a case manager who helps the moms get back on their feet by assisting them in applying for jobs, providing counseling, and offering lessons in parenting and life skills. The families work to become self-sufficient––navigating their way to independence and success.
I feel so grateful that April has become a friend. We share texts and I visit the family when time allows.
April inspires me as I witness her strength and perseverance––mothering six children isn’t for the faint of heart. The family is involved in trauma counseling, the children are in school and daycare, April is searching for a job, and she is looking forward to getting her GED soon. But most of all, she loves cooking for them in her cottage kitchen and sitting on the porch watching them ride bikes. She is thankful they are all safe.
BCH’s “a hand-up model” offers families who are going through a tough time dignity and respect. This mother’s life unraveled in the course of just a few months by circumstances beyond her control. Baptist Children’s Homes was in the right place, at the right time, to help.
I feel fortunate to get to work in a place where this story, although personal to me, is just one of many that can be told each year at BCH.
*The mom's name has been charged to protect the family.
Article by Pam Burgess, Office of the President Administrative Associate