As the Civil War raged, Alabama’s Presbyterians launched a bold initiative to care for the growing population of the state’s orphaned children. The plan was to open a home for those orphaned children, the ones who struggled the most to recover from the war’s destruction of homes, lives, and families.
The financial condition of Alabama after the war made fundraising difficult, but the Presbyterian women stepped up, taking over and making the dream of a home for children possible. In 1868, the Presbyterian-sponsored Home opened its doors to care for their first children in need and quickly became a pillar of stability for countless children from across Alabama.
The Home ultimately moved to an 80-acre campus in the heart of Talladega where it has expanded and flourished beyond what anyone in the 1860s could have imagined.
Gradually, the Home constructed additional residential buildings and enlarged the scope of services to its residents. The Home began accepting state funds in 1989, altering the method of accepting children but maintaining the same standard of loving care that has been its trademark since 1868.
In 1997, the Home founded Hope Academy, a school originally intended to educate its residents. The school expanded to accept students from the community who were looking for a small class environment and high standard of studies. Hope Academy was accredited in 2005 and later relocated to its current and thriving location on the campus of the First Presbyterian Church of Talladega.
Ascension Academy became the new name of the school in 2018, reflecting the broadened curriculum that merges leadership, responsibility, and community involvement training into academic studies.
The last decade has seen two periods of growth for the Home. The first occurred from 2014 to 2017, a time in which the Home expanded its ministries to include more programs, including Secure Dwellings for homeless boys and girls and female caregivers; Transition to Adult Living for young adult women in crisis; Family Bridges In-Home Intensive Services that keeps families together with preservation and reunification; and Supportive Housing.
The Home opened Union Village using four large cottages on a separate part of campus to provide safe, secure and affordable housing for individuals who are blind, deaf and deafblind in partnership with nearby Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind. AIDB provides full wrap-around support to these individuals. Union Village provides another diversified source of funding to help the Home care for at-risk children and youth.
The Home also received the EAGLE (Educational Assessment Guidelines Leading toward Excellence) designation through the United Methodist Association of Health and Welfare Ministries, the only faith-based accrediting body in the world for ministry to children. And it received a historic accreditation in 2020 from Social Current, formerly known as the Council on Accreditation which is the largest accrediting body of organizations providing human and social services in the country.
The Home weathered the global pandemic of 2020 with the same foresight, planning, and dogged determination with which it weathered the Great Depression, two World Wars, and other national catastrophes.
In the years following to 2022, the Home continued growing. In 2019, Union Village expanded with another large cottage, the historic President’s Residence and the introduction of site-built tiny cottages on previously used farmland. With a plan of ultimately having 42 tiny cottages, the Home has already built four and broke ground on another six in November 2022.
The Home opened a new 20,000 square foot PHFC Thrift Store location in a storefront in Talladega to serve economically challenged residents in the region while generating revenue for the Home to care for at-risk children and youth. The “Sweet Home Soiree” signature galas in Birmingham, Huntsville and Mobile have heightened the awareness of the Home across the state while raising needed funds.
The Home also expanded its mission outreach of compassion and support to children and youth living in extreme poverty within Wilcox and Marengo counties in central Alabama in partnership with a small nonprofit mentoring organization, M.I.N.D. Mentoring in New Dimensions, located in Wilcox County.
Social workers and caregivers at the Home have a combined experience of 100 years serving at-risk children and families. Felicia Storey, Vice President of Program Operations & Services, has worked at the Home for 38 years and was recently recognized with several prestigious regional and state awards for her work.
The Presbyterian Home for Children’s distinct mark on the state has been so significant that it was featured in the Alabama Bicentennial Book published by the Alabama Department of Archives and History.
As its ministries reach greater numbers of children and families, the Presbyterian Home for Children remains focused on its core mission of serving God and those who need help the most.