Press Release: The United Methodist Children’s Home Board of Trustees Decides to Serve More Children and Families in Crisis; Votes to Sell Organization’s Decatur Campus


January 17, 2017 at 7 p.m. ET



John P. Cerniglia, Vice President, Development

404.327.5867  office



The United Methodist Children’s Home Board of Trustees Decides to Serve More Children and Families in Crisis; Votes to Sell Organization’s Decatur Campus


Decatur, Ga. – Responding to the growing needs of the children and families it serves, on Jan. 17 the Board of Trustees of The United Methodist Children’s Home made the decision to expand and accelerate its impact across North Georgia by voting with overwhelming approval to sell its Decatur property.


Rev. Hal Jones, the UMCH President and CEO, put the decision into perspective.


“We appreciate the UMCH Board’s thoughtful consideration of multiple options regarding the future of The United Methodist Children’s Home campus in Decatur,” said Jones.  “I am energized by our Board’s 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.”


An informed process; a decision made with precedent


The Jan. 17 UMCH decision 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 recent months, 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 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 will unlock 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.


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, when called on by the State, UMCH must currently turn away 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 decision will help optimize our ability to address these challenges and reach more children and families in need,” said Jones.


Preserving a legacy more than 140 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 vote reached its result.


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 of the UMCH.


“As we look to the future with our residents, alumni, staff, neighbors and others in the community, there are, no doubt,  a lot of questions that still need to be answered,” said Jones. “The Board’s vote was just one step on a journey forward, and we will continue working collaboratively with all of those who have embraced our mission, and have partnered with us in accomplishing it.”


“No specific buyer or plan exists for property to be sold or retained, and we look forward to collectively shaping the future of land that has been enjoyed and valued by so many in our community,” added Jones.


“I could not be more proud of 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, and our Board didn’t hesitate when faced with the opportunity to operationalize our values of agility, embracing change and continuous improvement, and loving people.”


No specific timeline for the sale is in place. The UMCH encourages anyone interested to share ideas or questions by calling 404-327-5867. Additional information is available at




About The United Methodist Children’s Home:


The United Methodist Children’s Home was established in 1871 in Norcross to care for children orphaned during the Civil War, and has evolved to serve children and families in a ‘continuum of care’ mode. It envisions a world where ‘all children are raised in a loving, compassionate and nurturing home.’ And it works every day toward its mission ‘to restore children and families from trauma through Jesus Christ.’ Since 1973, UMCH has cared for over 6,000 children in safe and loving foster-care homes; it provides safe housing for at-risk young adults and prepares them to make positive life decisions and become productive, independent, citizens; and it strengthens and preserves at-risk families through safe housing and support services. Today, UMCH serves over 245 children and adults a day in 40 counties across North Georgia, and it delivered over 56,000 days of care in 2016.  For more information visit


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Linda Byars and The Children’s Home: A Christmas match made in heaven

Group of human palms on all sides of a cut out house diagram with setting sun coming through window over water

After her husband passed away in 2010, Linda Byars faced the question many of us will face one day: what to do now? With a passion for helping children in need, she thought of retiring from her job as a labor arbitrator – which requires travel – and become a foster parent. After praying about it, this life-long Christian decided she was better suited to stay at her job, one that afforded her to keep working after an age when most people retire, and instead find a way to help struggling families stay together in a Christian, nurturing environment. She began donating to The United Methodist Children’s Home (UMCH).


“God has given me time on this earth, energy, and work I love,” says Linda. “To be perfectly honest, my work is a lot easier than being a foster parent! But being a donor allows me to be a part of  The United Methodist Children’s Home ministry.”


Indeed Linda is a part of our ministry. This year, she has given a gift that will impact  numerous families. Because this time of year can be so special, but also so difficult for some families, Linda offered to match, dollar for dollar, donations coming in to The Children’s Home for the Thanksgiving and Giving Tuesday season.


“Linda is truly an angel,” said UMCH Vice President of Development John Cerniglia. “Thanks to her dedication to The Children’s Home, her generous, Christian heart, and her example to the larger UMCH donor community, we raised more than  $25,000 during this very important giving season.”


Linda says she knows she is blessed to be able to get up every day and do meaningful work that she enjoys and not need the income from that work. “I know that The Children’s Home can use my income better than I can. I am grateful for their work, and I am grateful for the opportunity to be a part of it.”


Won’t you consider joining Linda in giving to The Children’s Home? If you make a donation before Dec. 31, your gift will be matched dollar for dollar, up to $94,000 due to the kindness of a few special and anonymous donors.

As we celebrate Christ’s birth, we celebrate a church that gives to The Children’s Home with each baptism

The congregation of Sugarloaf United Methodist Church in Gwinnett County holds, on average, 15 to 20 baptisms a year. And while that in and of itself is a celebration for the life of the church, it is also an incredible blessing for The Children’s Home.


That’s because the congregation at Sugarloaf recognizes that while most babies who are baptized in their church sanctuary are surrounded by family and loved ones, there are other children who are in need of the love and care that is provided through the ministry of The Children’s Home. So they take up a collection after each baptism.


Baptismal reflections at Sugarloaf UMC. Pictures courtesy of Sugarloaf UMC.


“This is our opportunity to support the work of The Children’s Home and make a lasting difference,” said Rev. Matthew Mitchell, who enthusiastically embraced the tradition started by Sugarloaf UMC’s former pastor, Rev. Stuart Greene. “We only sponsor local ministries, and this is a very significant one for us. Being able to give regularly to The Children’s Home is very much a part of who we are.”


Started at Smyrna First UMC, Rev. Greene began this regular offering for The Children’s Home at Sugarloaf UMC in 2008. “By encouraging people to give to children in need in honor of the baby being baptized, we avoided taking ‘yet another offering’ which people grow weary of,” said Rev. Greene. “No one passed the plate; there were no commitment forms to sign. Anybody who wanted to give any amount would simply walk to the front before leaving the sanctuary and place the money or check on the altar. Many of the donations came from extended family members, who may or may not be members of the church, but who want to ensure their baby is adequately honored.”


Today, offerings taken after a baptism at the church total $500 to $1,000. “It’s always exciting to watch little kids to elderly folks, long-time members and new members visibly respond so emotionally and enthusiastically while they are putting their donation in the collection basket,” added Rev. Mitchell. “We know through these donations, and especially because of the great stewardship of UMCH, we are making a real impact.”


And yet the church’s connection to The Children’s Home goes deeper still. Currently Sugarloaf UMC has families who have fostered through The Children’s Home, according to Rev. Mitchell, and in one case, the fostering led to adoption.


Says Rev. Dave Allen Grady, Director of Church Relations at The Children’s Home, “Baptism is such a powerfully meaningful time for a family, both the family of the person being baptized and the family of the church. The Children’s Home is incredibly lucky that Sugarloaf UMC extends their family’s blessings to our family.”

Christmas Wishes Come True at The Children’s Home

On Saturday, Dec. 10, Santa and Mrs. Claus arrived to The United Methodist Children’s Home for our annual Christmas event to celebrate the holidays with the families and children we serve. More than 300 foster families, family housing residents, volunteers and staff joined together to celebrate Christmas at The Children’s Home. Most importantly, your generous love, support, gifts, and donations helped make Christmas wishes come true for our families and children.


Special highlights:

  • 57 families participated in this year’s Christmas shopping event
  • Over 90 volunteers contributed countless hours of service on Saturday
  • 145 children took keepsake portraits with Santa and Mrs. Claus

As we celebrate this season of giving with our loved ones, the need for loving foster families has never been greater. There are more than 13,000 foster children in the state of Georgia this Christmas. Please consider opening your home to a child in need or making a tax-deductible gift this holiday season.

View our 2016 photo gallery


Photo credits: Melanie Jones and John Haugaard


Children’s Home Foster Care programs at a glance

The Children’s Home has served more than 100 foster  care children and youth in 2016  the Foster Care, Transitional and Independent Living programs, and our programs continue to help more youth for longer periods of time.


How you can help:

Help us recruit new foster parents. Spread the word to your friends and community that compassionate and nurturing foster families are needed.


Consider becoming a foster parent. Attend one of our informational meetings to learn more. IMPACT training, which is required for anyone wishing to foster or adopt through the State Foster Care System, is currently offered free of charge in our Decatur and Gainesville offices.


Learn more: Contact Denise Peacock in the Atlanta area; Contact Sondra Rogers in the Gainesville area; Contact Ashley Blocker in the Newnan area.


Season To Give: 2016 Christmas Match Campaign


During this season of generosity, there has never been a better time to give to The United Methodist Children’s Home and create the biggest impact for your gift. Through the kindness of a few special and anonymous donors, your gift this holiday season will be matched dollar by dollar, up to a total of $94,000 until Dec. 31, going even further to help change the lives of children and families in need. That includes young adults like Kayla*.


Kayla’s childhood was exceptionally hard. In a true sense, her childhood was lost. She experienced the trauma of her father’s unexpected death when she was very young, and Kayla’s mother was addicted to drugs. For years Kayla suffered from her mother’s neglect and abuse. Tragically, there was no one else in the family to whom Kayla could turn. When Kayla was 13 years old, the state intervened, but was unable to place her in a foster home, so instead she entered a group home. Then, at age 17, she’d reached the age where she had to leave the group home, and was facing the world alone.


Because of the support of people like you, Kayla found her way at The United Methodist Children’s Home. As a resident in our Independent and Transitional Living program, Kayla learned basic life skills she had never before been taught, and she gained experience and confidence as she honed those skills. She was able to build and manage a personal budget, find and keep a job, and even purchase her first car – all while completing the program. Most importantly, Kayla was surrounded by people who loved and cared for her.


Kayla set a goal of going to college and members of The Children’s Home team helped her complete college applications and secure financial aid. Today, Kayla is 21 years old, working part time and attending college. She and her beloved adopted dog live in an apartment that the Children’s Home staff helped her find and furnish, and she is flourishing!


It’s through YOUR support that we are able to help young adults like Kayla be independent. But there are more children and young adults who need our help. Please take advantage of this special opportunity for your gift to have twice the impact, as we continue to partner with you in this redemptive ministry.


Remember the words of Psalms 127:3, “Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from Him.”


 Your gift to The United Methodist Children’s Home is tax-deductible, to the full extent allowed by law. Donate online at or mail to:

The United Methodist Children’s Home
500 S. Columbia Drive
Decatur, Georgia 30030


But, hurry. Your gift must be mailed by Dec. 31 to be matched dollar for dollar, and for 2016 tax purposes.


From all of us at The United Methodist Children’s Home, thank you for everything you’ve already done, and for considering to give today. We hope you have a warm and blessed holiday season.


*Name changed for privacy

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