Thursday was a big day for the Palmer Home for Children, as a fundraising radiothon was for the seventh year held on its campus near Hernando with the statewide radio network SuperTalk Mississippi.
As the day was spent raising money while talking with Palmer Home officials, supporters and youngsters who reside at the privately-funded, non-profit organization, CEO/President Drake Bassett announced on the program the start of a capital campaign that will raise about $7 million for a new building.
The facility will be named the Dr. Hugh Francis Jr. Wellness Center, in honor of a long-time supporter and member of the home’s Board of Directors, Bassett said.
“Dr. Francis was a special person and a special part of the Palmer Home story,” Bassett said. “He served on our Board of Directors for decades and was truly committed to the Palmer Home. He led the charge to make sure that we provide opportunities for children, by way of camps, education, but his heart was in it. We’re glad to honor him and his family.”
The Palmer Home for Children started as an orphanage in Columbus about 125 years ago. The Hernando home was added and recently became a prime location for the residential foster care facility with the closure of the Columbus home in March of this year.
Bassett explained the Wellness Center will become a central part of the Hernando home.
“We can incorporate things like classrooms, where we can help children who are struggling with education,” Bassett said. “We have counseling where we are going to be able to help children with their emotional needs. We have a place for staff and a place for having dinner. This is a large campus with basically six homes, but we need a central hub, a place for people to come together and we need a place where we can accomplish a variety of things as well as provide some things for children like a gymnasium and pool, basic things that are accessible for them here.”
The Wellness Center will include The Gathering Place, as it will be called, which will be a large multi-purpose room with an industrial-sized kitchen.
“The Wellness Center will be a trauma-responsive space that is designed to encourage physical and emotional healing, as well as educational and spiritual growth,” Bassett said.
The funding campaign has already begun for the soon-to-be Wellness Center, said Bassett.
“Funding is essential as with everything else that we’ve done,” Bassett explained. “It’s prayer, faith, a lot of sweat and a lot of hard work, reaching out to people to say, ‘you need to get in the game.’ It’s privately funded and we’ve had a number of substantial gifts and we’re well on our way."
Bassett added it is hoped that a groundbreaking can yet be held this summer with a goal of completion and occupancy by next summer.
While children were moved into the Hernando home from Columbus after the announcement of the Columbus home’s closure in March, the Palmer Home maintains administrative, marketing and financial offices in Columbus. All of the organization's thrift stores remain in place.
The 30 children living at the Columbus campus finished out the school year and then moved to Hernando earlier in the summer.
Bob Bakken is Managing Editor of the DeSoto Times-Tribune.