Area group working for the children

On Tuesday, more than a thousand chicken dinners are going to translate into a sizable donation to an area children’s charity.

For the past few weeks, Friends of the Children in Lincoln County have been busy selling tickets for smoked chicken plates with all proceeds going to the Natchez Children’s Home Services.

Now with the maximum number of $8-apiece tickets sold and additional donations received, the group is hoping to be able to make a significant contribution to the children’s home services, said Lenita Watts, who has been a point person for Friends of the Children in Lincoln County.

“I’m doing the smoked chicken plates on a personal level,” said Watts, who with her husband Doug fostered two “precious little boys from over there.”

Although her foster children later were reunited with family, Watts continues her staunch commitment to what Natchez Children’s Home is doing.

“I believe in what they are doing over there,” Watts told me last week. “They are fighting for our children, one child at a time.”

Founded in 1816 as an orphanage by a group of area women who saw a need, Natchez Children’s Home is one of the oldest such organizations in the country. It has been situated in its current location on a six-acre site in Natchez since 1863, said Nancy Hungerford, executive director of Natchez Children’s Home Services.

Until 2008, the campus was the site of a group home for children who were not necessarily orphaned, Hungerford said. Then, in 2008, the organization changed its focus to foster care.

The organization’s campus, while no longer serving as a group home, now houses a children’s crisis center, a counseling center and a preschool center for 2 and 3-year-olds, in addition to offering space for the tobacco-free coalition.

“We’re a Christian agency and privately funded,” Hungerford said. “We try to intervene and try to keep families intact.” The organization is licensed as a child-caring and a child-placing agency, Hungerford said.

In keeping with its mission, Natchez Children’s Home Services continue to seek foster parents for children. “We’re looking for people who are very stable and willing to not give up when the first clouds form,” Hungerford said.

Ultimately, though, “the goal is to unite the child back with the biological family,” she added.

Hungerford expressed thanks and appreciation to Watts and her Lincoln County group for what they are doing to help.

“They have done remarkably well in gaining support. We are extremely grateful,” Hungerford said.

She also is thankful to the organization’s foster parents like Lenita and Doug Watts, who have provided homes for the children placed by the agency over the years.

“I believe God puts people together with these children,” Hungerford said.

Although – thanks to the diligence of Watts and the other local Friends of the Children – the chicken dinner plates have long since sold out, Watts reminded those with tickets not to forget to drop by the State Room Tuesday, Nov. 5, between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. to pick up their dinners.

Watts also said anyone who would like to donate to Natchez Children’s Home Services through Friends of the Children in Lincoln County is welcome to call her at (601) 754-1101.

To learn more about Natchez Children’s Home Services, you also can go to the organization’s website, www.ntzchs.org or call (601) 442-6858.

Rachel Eide is editor/general manager of The Daily Leader. Contact her at rachel.eide@dailyleader.com.