“There are over 6,000 kids in foster care in Mississippi,” says Samantha Kalahar, Director of Development at Methodist Children’s Homes of Mississippi. “And we serve the top 5 percent with the most needs.”
Since 1896, the mission of Methodist Children’s Homes of Mississippi has been to minister to children who have experienced various forms of neglect or abuse by providing a safe, loving place for them to heal and receive therapeutic counseling.
“We aim to provide psychological, as well as physical, safety,” says Devon Loggins, President and CEO of MCH Mississippi. “We consider this place to be hallowed ground.”
Kalahar says that reuniting children with their biological family is always the ideal scenario, but their focus is on maintaining a stable environment for the child, utilizing therapeutic foster homes, as well as residential group homes. Right now, they have around 30 children living on campus and over 30 in foster homes.
“Our goal is to help children find a loving family,” says Kalahar.
Methodist Children’s Homes of Mississippi (located on the outskirts of Clinton, on the corner of Northside Drive and North Flag Chapel Road) is a 186-acre campus that includes three group homes, a gym and pool, a chapel, and housing for staff. The campus also contains a community health center where children and their families, as well as other children in the area, can receive counseling services, and transitional housing to enable older students to live more independently.
The group homes (1 for boys, 2 for girls) house about 10 students each, ages 10-21, each one with a house manager and staff. In these homes, residents receive spiritual and academic guidance, and learn social and life skills. Therapists and counselors are available at all times, and Loggins and the rest of the senior leadership also live on campus.
A therapist by trade, Loggins says relationships are at the core of their program.
“Everything that we do is through Jesus Christ,” he says. “He can utilize us to touch the lives of kids who just want someone to love them, and those relationships become lifelong.”
Loggins says that because many of the kids have been through a series of placements before coming to MCH, they may be behind in their education. MCH kids attend Clinton Public Schools, and Loggins says CPS has been extremely accommodating to help students catch up and get on track to graduate. Each week, Clinton teachers also come out to tutor kids.
“These students have to fight extra hard for those grades,” says Loggins. “We have seven kids in college right now.”
Loggins excitedly points out two letters he recently received from CPS, letting him know that two of their current students are on track to graduate. “These kids may have been told that they couldn’t do it,” he says. “But we believe in them.”
Loggins adds that he often hears back from former MCH students, eager to share good news.
“One wants to be an accountant; another, a cardiologist,” he says. “We act as that parent even after they graduate and leave because we want them to continue to have a support system and succeed. They’re going to be our family forever.”
“Children first, family always,” recites Loggins. “That’s our motto.”
Kim and Margaret Davis of First United Methodist Church in Clinton have been volunteering at MCH since 2010, mostly helping renovate parts of the campus. Due to older buildings and limited funding, only a small portion of MCH’s campus is actually livable. The Davises and other volunteers have helped “flip” six houses, in addition to other renovation work over the last 7 years.
“We want to make the buildings look like homes,” says Margaret.
She adds that the renovations are possible primarily because of donations and volunteer labor.
“The people in Clinton have been very supportive,” says Kim. “And this has been one of the most worthwhile experiences we’ve ever been a part of.”
“It’s a wonderful mission opportunity that people can drive right down the road to do,” Margaret adds. “And it’s great meeting other people who want to serve.”
One of the United Methodist Women circles of Clinton also comes out to do Bible studies with the girls about once a month. Other volunteers from the community bring food, do arts and crafts, or play games.
“Churches and volunteers make it possible to do what we do,” says Loggins. “It’s contagious when you come here.”
Kalahar says that they are primarily in need of those willing to be foster parents, as well as mentors and tutors for the kids at Methodist Children’s Home. They also welcome monetary and clothing donations, and “prayer,” she adds. “We always need people to pray.”
For more information, go to mchms.org or call 601.853.5000.