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Raising Hope For Children

Seeking blessings from the Almighty on a warm, breezy morning,the churchmen plunged their sharp shovels into the gray earthSaturday and overturned the first dirt at a site where a newLincoln County children’s home will be built.

After operating in Albany, La., for 31 years, the BereanChildren’s Home is moving home to be near its support base at Mt.Olive Church of Christ, with construction already under way at a10-acre site at 1026 Shell Oil Lane. Church members and supporterscongregated at the muddy clearing Saturday to commemorate theproject, which is expected to give the institution more strength tocarry out its mission of raising young children who come frombroken homes.

“Helping others, that’s what life is all about,” said WendellDavis, Mt. Olive’s minister and president of the incorporation thatruns Berean. “That’s what James said religion was all about.”

The Berean Children’s Home is a Christian non-profitorganization that houses, feeds, clothes and tends to the spiritualneeds of children who have been abandoned, abused or cast out oftheir homes. Basically a non-traditional orphanage, the home takesup to 16 children, ages 6-13, from around the country from parentswho can’t – or don’t want to – raise them. It also works with thecourts to accept wards of the state who have no home to go to.

“We take kids who just need a home,” Davis said. “Probably 90percent of the kids are not actually orphans, their parents justdon’t want them. Most of them are at the age where foster parentsdon’t want them, but they’re too young to be locked up.”

The home makes all the provisions for children’s basic needs andalso supplies instructional support and counseling. Children whoare accepted at Berean will attend school at Enterprise AttendanceCenter, have daily devotionals and daily chores and duties, andwill be encouraged to participate in extracurricularactivities.

“We try to make it just like a family,” Davis said.

Berean receives no state or federal funding and is supportedentirely by Mt. Olive Church of Christ, other local churches anddonors residing in more than 30 states. The home tried to relocateto 16th Section land near Mt. Olive at the end of 2008, but newrules governing the use of 16th Section land prohibited the LincolnCounty School Board from granting such a large, permanentlease.

Beatrice Allen, 73, a life-long member of Mt. Olive, donated the10-acre site on which the home is being built.

“I felt like I needed to help, and I’m not going to take any ofthis with me when I’m gone,” she said. “I have children of my own,and I know a lot of children don’t have the things we do, thespiritual guidance we have.”

The new home is expected to cost around $1.8 million and willconsist of four structures – two residence halls, an office andlibrary and a cafeteria. The residence halls will have eight roomseach, and every child will have a private room.

Construction on an accompanying gymnasium is expected to startbefore the current project is complete in April 2011, and abaseball diamond built to little league specifications is plannedfor the future.

The project will generate about 10 new jobs, with up to fivefull-time employees like house parents and counselors, and fivepart-time workers like maintenance crew, needed immediately. Morejobs may be created as the facility expands.

Berean board member Tim White said moving the home to LincolnCounty would allow for better supervision and fast response fromthe support base, as well as better opportunities for the childrenhoused there.

“It was an hour-and-a-half drive, but with it being here, we canpop in any time we need to help,” he said. “And the kids will bemore involved in the school because they’re right here at theschool, and they’ll have more church activities because they’reright here at the church.”

Enterprise Attendance Center Principal Shannon Eubanks said hisschool, which has long experienced steady growth, is prepared totake on the new students at Berean. Likewise, the principal hasexperience in dealing with children from broken homes, havingworked in community counseling during his time at Mississippi StateUniversity, and knows how to handle them.

“All they really want is normality, so we’re not going to treatthem any differently, but if there’s a situation, we’ll understanddifferently,” Eubanks said. “All kids need the same things -safety, food, shelter. But they also need people who care aboutthem. At Enterprise, we’re a family. As long as you want to be partof the Enterprise family, we’re going to support you.”

Brookhaven’s Danny Boyd, who will direct Berean, looks at thehome’s children the same way. If all goes well, the community won’teven know Berean is there, he said.

“I hope these kids will blend into the community transparently.The goal is for them to have all the benefits other kids do,” Boydsaid.