(NOTE: Find answers to Frequently Asked Questions at the Children's Home website.)
Responding to the growing needs of the children and families it serves, the Board of Trustees of The United Methodist Children’s Home (UMCH) has agreed to sell the ministry’s 77-acre campus to the City of Decatur.
The Decatur City Commission approved the purchase at their April 17 Commission meeting at Decatur City Hall. Proceeds of the sale – priced at $40 million – will help UMCH reach more children and families in crisis in new communities across North Georgia.
The sale terms include preservation of the historic Moore Chapel and the gravesite of the Children's Home founder Rev. Dr. Jesse Boring.
The sale also creates a preservation covenant honoring the tenure of Bev Cochran, former CEO of UMCH, who led the ministry for 43 years, from 1968 to 2012. The City of Decatur and The Children’s Home agreed to name the existing administration building at 500 South Columbia Drive – which will remain in use by the City – in memory of Cochran.
The City of Decatur will determine and announce its plans for the remainder of the property and its existing buildings and resources.
Rev. Hal Jones, The Children’s Home President and CEO, put the sale decision into perspective.
“Funds from the sale will help The United Methodist Children’s Home to greatly expand local, community-based ministries in towns and cities across North Georgia,” said Jones. “Since January, when the Board voted for approval of a sale, I continue to be energized by the decision which embraces the changing landscape in providing services to children and families while empowering UMCH to deliver on, and continuously improve, its important mission.
“We are grateful for the City of Decatur’s collaboration with us to preserve our historic Moore Chapel, which will offer our alumni, and others with strong ties to UMCH, a permanent place to celebrate and honor our history,” added Jones. “The determination of our UMCH Board, UMCH leadership team, and the City of Decatur leadership moved in harmony with voices of alumni, partners and neighbors, all of whom expressed commitment to preserving the great legacy symbolized by the Chapel.”
City of Decatur Mayor Patti Garrett said the City of Decatur is uniquely positioned to be the trustee of this resource and the purchase provides a long-term legacy for generations to come.
“The purchase of this property fits with the City’s mission, vision and values and is an investment for current and future families and children,” said Garrett. “The City of Decatur will conduct a community-based master planning effort for the future use of the property once the sale is final and the city has possession of the property.“
It is anticipated that the sale will be closed and final in the summer, with the UMCH vacating by late summer or early fall 2017.
UMCH currently houses approximately 80 individuals on campus who are a part of the Family Housing and Independent Living programs. UMCH is committed to providing uninterrupted services and continued support to its residents and will work with them on relocations based on individual needs. In general, current and future residents will move from group home cottages on the campus to more modern, safe and appropriate housing primarily in DeKalb and Fulton counties.
Sale funds important mission in perpetuity
The proceeds from the sale will be used to serve more children and families who face trauma and seek restoration. And the funds will be used so UMCH may expand its ministries into communities not currently served, such as Augusta, Rome, Dalton, LaGrange, Griffin, and other areas.
Proceeds from the sale will also help expand all existing ministries including Foster Care, Family Housing, Independent Living and Transitional Living, in metro Atlanta, and in new communities as well.
A brief overview of how the proceeds from the sale will serve more people includes:
Informed by research, sale decision made with precedent
The Jan. 17 UMCH decision and April 12 sale confirmation was informed by precedent. The organization’s DeKalb property originally featured 226 acres, but over the years and in response to evolving needs, 149 acres were sold as the focus of the ministry changed.
During 2016, UMCH leadership embarked on thoughtful research and consideration of how and where the organization might expand its ability to deliver on the organization’s mission and to keep up with, or anticipate, the times in which the organization now operates and ministers.
The Board’s decision to sell is the result of careful evaluation of many options, and their decision will set a course for an exciting future while increasing UMCH’s ability to achieve its mission – to restore children and families from trauma through Jesus Christ.
Unlocking resources while facing an endless challenge
This decision to sell unlocks the capital needed to reach more children and families in crisis. Sample estimates indicate funds from the sale will help to greatly expand local, community-based ministries in towns and cities across North Georgia, in partnership with many more churches.
Though initial projections reviewed by the board, UMCH estimates the organization will serve approximately 63 more people every year, in perpetuity, as a result of the decision. UMCH has pledged its firm commitment to provide high-quality, uninterrupted service to all its clients, including those living on its campus today.
Currently, there are 13,000 Georgia children who have been separated from their families, and who are in State custody due to neglect, abuse or abandonment; this is a number that has doubled over the last five years.
Every week UMCH turns away approximately 30 children who need a loving foster home, because of limited resources. And each week families at risk of homelessness are turned away for the same reason.
“The sale greatly enhances our ability to address these challenges and reach more children and families in need,” said Jones.
UMCH staff will continue to work at the current campus until employee needs are determined and new spaces are selected in anticipation of the City of Decatur receiving ownership. UMCH will select office space in many of the communities it serves across North Georgia.
Preserving a legacy more than 145 years in the making
The UMCH Board is committed to honoring the organization’s historic legacy of service, and as such the group continuously explores new and more effective ways to bring needed resources to children and families in need. It was in that spirit that the decision to sell took place.
The decision honors the legacy of The United Methodist Children’s Home in two ways. First, it applies resources to the greatest need – to serve children and families; and second, the decision includes an aim by the Board to retain a small parcel of the DeKalb property to honor the historic home.
“The Board’s vote to sell in January, and the sale announced today, each were critical steps on a journey forward,” said Jones. “We will continue working collaboratively with all of those who have embraced our mission, and have partnered with us in accomplishing it.”
“I am intensely proud and humbled by UMCH’s history, the impact of our current work and ministry, and the enormously positive effect this decision will have on so many more people in our future,” said Jones. “Too many organizations tend to balk when the values they espouse are tested. Our Board did not hesitate when presented with the opportunity to operationalize our values of agility, embracing change and continuous improvement, and loving people.”
Donations and volunteers still needed; popular flea market open in July
Jones added that the need for financial donations are needed now more than ever as there is a continuous need to serve thousands of children and families. Those interested should please donate online at www.umchildrenshome.org or continue to mail donations to 500 S. Columbia Drive, Decatur, Ga., 30030.
“The sale of our land does not reduce the urgency of assisting people in need,” said Jones.
UMCH is committed to its longstanding partnership with its Auxiliary – the team of 200 faithful volunteers who operate the flea market – and UMCH will work closely with the Auxiliary to find a suitable location to continue to operate the flea market sales for years to come.
UMCH continues to need volunteers, especially for its growing foster care ministry. For volunteer opportunities and details, anyone interested should please visit the UMCH’s volunteer pages online at www.umchildrenshome.org/ways-to-help/volunteer/.