December 2017 Mission of the Month: Palmer Home for Children
by Gene Stansel
On November 6, 2017, Walter and Stevie Pillow and Gene and Jere Stansel visited Palmer Home for Children in Columbus, Mississippi. The folks at Palmer rolled out their “big welcome mat” and gave us the royal treatment as we visited the administration building, Love Cottage, and the Palmer Home School. We ate lunch with the President (Drake Bassett), the Board Chairman (Harold Clark, Clark Beverage Group), a Board Member (Jack Forbus, insurance agent in Starkville) and Sarah Hollis (VP for Engagement). Afterwards, we dropped by the greenhouse complex (7 greenhouses) which are all filled with poinsettias waiting to be sold for Christmas decorations.
Palmer Home was founded in Columbus, Mississippi, in 1895, through the efforts of First Presbyterian Church of Columbus. The home is named for an outstanding Presbyterian minister, the Reverend Benjamin M. Palmer, and has been meeting the needs of needy children ever since. Not all of the 66 children are orphans, but all have suffered various types of abuse. Ministry to these children requires much patience and understanding. Palmer’s unstated motto is to “rescue and rehabilitate” children in need. Palmer obtains legal guardianship for many of the children in order to prevent a “ping-pong effect” between natural parents and the home. There is no charge whatever for their services and the home accepts responsibility for the child through four years of college, if the child is qualified and so desires.
Facility wise, the home maintains several cottage-style residences in its two locations, Columbus and Hernando. In Columbus, the home is land-locked on 110 acres located just south of downtown This original property contains cottages, a school (kindergarten through high school), a gym, a swimming pool, horse barns (with pasture), greenhouses, gardens, and administrative buildings. The main building was recently placed on the National Registry of Historic Places. The newer location in Hernando, Mississippi, is situated on 140 acres and contains a 70 acre lake. Hernando has three cottages, two staff residences, and an administrative office. Four new cottages along with a physical health building are in the planning stages. No new structures are anticipated in Columbus; however, all buildings show some wear and tear and are always in need of maintenance. Volunteers from churches often help with painting and repair. For a full orbed view of the home and its programs see www.palmerhome.org, and/or https://www.facebook.com/PalmerHome/
Approximately five years ago Drake Bassett was hired as the new president and CEO of Palmer Home. Drake’s love and concern for troubled children is evident in his speech and in the programs he has instituted for Palmer Home. Drake is the real thing! Because he felt the need to “do something different with my life” Drake left New York City and a large corporation with a comfortable salary to accept the position in Columbus. Drake grew up in a Christian home (father is a minister) and despite his advancement in the corporate culture, he felt the tugging need to do something different. His inward call to the ministry of Palmer Home is a real treat to hear!
- $6.5 million budget is raised each year from churches and individual donors.
- The Jonah’s Journey project (new) finds adoptive parents for babies born to incarcerated mothers.
- Palmer Home facilitates open adoptions if such becomes necessary.
- Children are responsible for daily chores; they work on and off campus.
- Palmer Home hires six teachers, all are eminently qualified and many are retired from public education.
- Each child is tested for a program of individually structured learning; school uses ABeka system.
- Drake Bassett is available to visit churches and preach. He normally brings an 8-member female choir.
- Volunteers can participate in maintenance, donate for special needs and projects, or donate for summer camp experiences (Camp Desoto for girls and Alpine Camp for Boys.).
- Visitors are always welcomed.