New Mexico Baptist Children’s Home is celebrating a milestone in helping youth in the state for 90 years.
The home is planning an Aug. 1 reunion for former residents.
Public Relations Officer Teresa Howard said she does not know how many former children will be coming.
“It is usually the ones from the 40s and 50s who come back,” Howard said. “We do have younger ones who lived here doing the 80s who come, but we don’t know what to expect for that day.”
Howard said many letters the home sent out came back because the person was deceased, had moved or couldn’t be found.
There will be games, campus tours, slide shows of former children and a barbecue.
Geraldine Dooley, Baptist Children’s Home administrator, said the home began about 90 years ago when Leon Gambrell, pastor for First Baptist, started taking in orphans.
“Within a few months he had more children than he could take care of,” Dooley said. “So he went to a convention in Albuquerque for help.”
In October of that year, the Baptist Convention took over and called the home New Mexico Baptist Orphan’s Home. In 1949, the name was changed to what it is today.
Dooley said the home helps children from across the U.S.
“The parents were gone, or ended up in the hospital,” Dooley said. “Dad left and mom couldn’t take care of them, there is a lot of reasons. We don’t take children from the courts, but some of the them have issues and we try to help a child with some of their problems.”
The Baptist Children’s Home relies on donations and money from the churches to help with the expenses of caring for the children.
Southwest Cheese donates cheese and the United Dairy Women raise money for milk for the all the children’s homes.
All the children help out with chores, keeping their rooms clean, participate in 4-H and work on the farm and attend school in the surrounding area.
The children are all ages. Once they reach 18 years-old they must find an apartment or go to college and the home helps them adjust during this phase as well.
The children have house parents who take care of them like, Chris and Sandi St. Clair, who have been doing it for almost five years.
Sandi said they didn’t know places like the home still existed. They found out through a pastor in Dallas about the Baptist Children’s Home.
“We’ve been in the youth and children’s ministry our whole lives,” Sandi said. “It was just natural when we came we fell in love, because you have the children with you all the time.”
Sandi said when they learned the children’s home existed, she and Chris knew what they had to do.
“When we first came we wanted to see a difference right away,” Sandi said. “You got to take your time, if you do it to fast with these children, they break. You have to be patient.”
Chris said it is letting God make the changes happen.
A lot of former children still keep in touch with the people who helped during the hard times.
The St. Clair’s had 27 children pass through the doors of their cottage since they have been at the Baptist Children’s Home.
The Baptist Children Home is seeking house parents to help with the children.
Dooley said when she was a house parent, one of her girls was a very angry teenager because her parents were divorced.
“She had been pretty abusive to her mother,” Dooley said. “She came in and we kept her for a little over a year and a half. She went back home so she could graduate.”
And while she had calmed down, once in a while there would be a flare up and Dooley would get a call.
“The (family) joke was if she got out of control,” Dooley said. “Her mother would say ‘Why don’t you call Aunt Geraldine (Dooley) and she can help you out.’”
Now a woman and mother of four, she still calls to get advice from Aunt Geraldine.
Info for reunion:
Contact: Teresa Howard at 359-1254 or email; firstname.lastname@example.org