In 1895, William States Jacobs was serving as the First Presbyterian Church in Columbus when he issued a challenge: start an orphanage in Columbus.
In 2017, Palmer Home for Children has left the word “orphanage” behind. They’re a home, a hope, and a second chance for many of Mississippi’s children.
“We take care of children,” said Lynn Atkins, director of the Columbus campus of Palmer Home. “Children who have no one else to take care of them. Children whose parents maybe have passed away, or incarcerated, or grandparents have been taking care of them and just can’t anymore. We get a lot of calls from grandparents.”
In the Palmer Home cottages, there are 6-10 children who live with their house parents. They go to school, church, and share in extracurricular activities together.
“We usually only have 6-8 per cottage, but right now in a few we have 10, because we’re understaffed,” said Atkins. “We’re just excited to have them on campus and be able to work with them.”
Atkins said Palmer Home focuses on four aspects of the children’s lives: the spiritual, the emotional, the physical and the educational. Since Palmer Home doesn’t accept government or state dollars for funding, they are able to instill Christian principles to the children, both within their cottage homes and within their education.
“We have a school on the Columbus campus, and we’re excited about that,” said Atkins. This keeps the children together through the various aspects of their lives.
The kids also have the ability to take horseback riding lessons, swim lessons, tennis lessons, and the colleges often partner with the school at Palmer Home to expand the educational lessons.
They also get hands-on gardening experience.
“They learn about growing,” said Atkins. “And they start with seed production. That’s a program we’re glad to see here. And they’re excited to try the new foods they’ve grown.”
Palmer Home also provides emotional support for the children.
“The Mississippi University of Women…has a music therapy program they bring to the children,” said Atkins. “A lot of our children have trauma backgrounds, and they come and help them with that.”
Sarah Hollis is the Vice President of Engagement, and discusses the growth Palmer Home has seen.
“Between our home in Columbus and our home in Hernando, we have about 75 kids,” said Hollis. “And with three new cottages at the Hernando campus will allow us to serve 25 more there.”
Hollis added that children receive therapeutic care from counselors on campus, which strengthens the home’s ability to provide support as these kids develop and eventually, leave Palmer Home.
“There’s not a one-size cure-all to help with these kids,” said Hollis. “There’s no one answer to help them overcome their past.”
Governor Phil Bryant acknowledges the part Palmer Home plays in caring for Mississippi’s children.
“Two years ago we started the child protection agency. We have a lot of children in Mississippi who need our help,” said Gov. Bryant. “But the Palmer Home has been doing so in such a dramatic and successful way for years now… it has and will continue to change these children’s lives for the better.”
However, what Palmer Home does cannot be done without the support of the community. This week, Palmer Home is undergoing a major fundraising effort with the 5th Annual Palmer Home Radiothon, hosted by Super Talk Mississippi.
“I can tell you from experience, I’ve given to Palmer Home,” said Governor Bryant. “And I’ll continue to give for the rest of my life.”
For more information on how to give to Palmer Home, click here.