It’s a shocking fact: every second in the United States, a child is abused.
Annually, there are over 100,000 abuse cases reported in Georgia alone. Many more children need a safe place to live, free from the threat of abuse in the night, or abandonment in the morning.
In 1962, some dedicated Fayette County residents came together with other like-minded members of Southwest Christian Church to build such a place, and called it Christian City.
Since then, the Children’s Village at Christian City has been “home” to over 1,000 abandoned, abused, and neglected children. Christian City is a nonprofit, nondenominational organization that provides these special children a safe haven in a loving, family-centered, residential setting. They also provide foster care placement in well-qualified homes in the community.
The Children’s Village cares for children both by private placement and from the Department of Family and Children Services. With a focus on family, education and healing, Christian City is known and respected throughout the State of Georgia for providing a program of excellence. They minister to those who are dealing with a life crisis, such as the death of a parent, divorce, or sexual, physical, and emotional abuse. The program’s family environment allows children from every background to have access to a traditional family unit and support systems to help mend their wounded spirits. For many children, The Children’s Village will be the only home they ever know.
The children live in cottages with full-time house parents, functioning as one big family including daily chores, homework, regular church attendance and traditional sit-down meals. Dedicated house parents are an important component of why the Children’s Village has so many successes in turning broken-spirited, angry or sad children, into productive, successful, good hearted kids. Many of these children grow up to become happy, healthy adults who live in Fayette County, serving the community as firefighters, school teachers, airline employees or in the legal field.
One such child was Sarah, whose father was in prison and whose mother was unable to care for her.
She was raised at Christian City and now is attending Goizueta School of Business at Emory with the hopes of being a lawyer. Sarah shared, “If it weren’t for Christian City, I don’t know where I would be.
I came to Christian City at the end of my 6th grade…I was twelve. I had been living in an emergency shelter, I remember it all very well. I was very mean and I felt like everything bad that had happened in my life was all my fault. My house parents treated me as their own child from the first time we ever met. Even if I was hard to get along with, they still loved me. We had a great life and we became very connected as a family. My house parents encouraged me in my school work and in extra activities.
When I was struggling academically, they hired a tutor. They were always there to help me with my homework, and then later to help me apply for a good college. I am where I am today because of the positive influence of my house parents and of Christian City.”
The original cottages built back in the 1960’s needed to be updated and replaced, so after years of planning and fundraising, a new Children’s Village opened in August 2008. With a steady flow of new child residents, the cottages are always bustling with activity. KaBoom!, a nonprofit organization, and 150 volunteers built a playground for the kids. There is a plan to build “Polly’s Garden,” a quiet place for reflection, which will honor major contributors and children past and present. The garden will have vegetables, fruit and nut trees, pergolas and a “Bricks For Kids” walkway. A swimming pool, baseball field and other recreational facilities are still in the “dreaming” stages and will come as funding provides.
Quality education is top priority at the Children’s Village. As appropriate, the children attend SACS accredited Christian schools where they are given the best education Christian City can afford. Tutors are hired for special needs children. A recent donation from Coweta-Fayette EMC purchased new computers and software for homework needs. Ballet lessons, baseball uniforms, summer camps are all provided for with donations from the community. Proceeds from Graceland Thrift Store help with some costs, but it is not nearly enough to cover all the expenses.
Christian City has a new focus on fundraising through their Child Sponsorship Program, where you can become a child sponsor for as little as $30 a month. This is an easy way to contribute and is very simply done with a check, debit or credit card. This is quickly becoming the “bread and butter” of their fundraising efforts and is helping to bring in new donors who may not be able to give a “major” gift all at once. For many, giving what amounts to a dollar per day toward a child’s well being is not difficult and very rewarding, and the sponsorship program benefits from receiving consistent contributions.
According to Heidi Becker, Christian City’s Director of Marketing and Development, the greatest need is for operational support. “The ongoing expense of caring for numerous children is astronomical in today’s economy. Each month we get a little further behind as donations dwindle and our costs go up. Meeting our day-to-day expenses of gas, electricity, food, transportation and other basics is a struggle. Over the years, the Fayette County community has been very generous to the children who live in our cottages. Many have become child sponsors over the past year, which is a huge help!”
Heidi says, “Each child has their own story. Each comes from such unbelievably sad circumstances. They did not choose to be here. But God has chosen Christian City to care for them, and in the past, our Fayette County friends have been a tremendous help. Our prayer is that in these lean times, they will continue to help us so that we can continue to serve these kids in the best way possible.”
For more information on The Children’s Village at Christian City, access www.christiancity.org or call 770-703-2636.