Those who are happiest are those who do the most for others.¹
Ali O’Leary is the community development coordinator Palmer Home for Children for Middle Tennessee. Palmer Home provides superior care for vulnerable children while introducing the love of God through their service to each individual child. They provide a family unit and community to children in need from Tennessee, Mississippi and beyond regardless of race, gender, or background. The children they serve range in ages from birth to young adults with the majority coming from households whose parents are deceased, in need of rehabilitation, incarcerated or otherwise unable to care for them.
O’Leary is passionate about her work, “I get to talk to people about the incredible mission of Palmer Home and caring for children and families in need.”
Palmer Home serves children and families through four services:
- Campus Care – The residential campus, located in Hernando, MS (just 30 minutes from downtown Memphis), provides a Christ-centered family atmosphere where children feel safe, connected to trustworthy adults, and supported as they grow and develop in their care. Striving to keep sibling groups together, each child is placed with a caregiver couple in one of their six on-campus homes.
- Foster Care – Palmer Home certified foster families provide a loving two-parent household to children in need. They believe every child benefits from a safe, stable, nurturing family that provides supportive relationships and a sense of belonging. Unlike traditional systems, they do not pay foster families.
- Family Care – Based in Nashville, the ministry for infants of mothers in prison is growing, and they are working to create successful reunifications with mothers once their sentence is complete. Their certified caregivers not only offer support for the children, but also for the mothers in prison and after release to cultivate the bond between the mother and child.
- Transitional Care – The transitional program gives guidance and coaching for children between the ages of 18 to 24 years old. Their goal is to prepare each child for independence through career and vocational development, as well as other life-skills to succeed as young adults.
The struggle is part of the story.
Palmer Home for Children is 100% donation-based and does not receive government/state funding. They rely entirely on the generosity of individuals, corporations, foundations, civic groups and churches. No donation is too small, and every bit makes a real-world difference for a child in need.
O’Leary shared, “Right now, one of the biggest challenges we’re facing is how COVID-19 has impacted the prison system. One of the factors that makes our Family Care program so unique is our focus on keeping the bond between an incarcerated mother and her child. Before the pandemic, our certified caregivers regularly visited incarcerated mothers so they could spend time with their baby and strengthen their bond. Unfortunately, due to COVID, all prison visits have been suspended, and many prisons are not equipped for video calls. There are incarcerated mothers who have not seen their children in nearly a year. It’s a heartbreaking situation for all parties, and we are working as best we can to help.”
Volunteers are always welcome. The Family Care ministry is based in the Nashville/Middle TN area and Palmer Home is always looking for full-time and respite caregivers to care for the children in their ministry. They regularly host interest meetings (virtual right now) for interested families to learn more about the ministry, licensure and training requirements and to answer questions. They also keep diapers, wipes, formula, and other baby essentials in stock for their caregiver families that need to be replenished from time to time.
The key to success is to focus on goals, not obstacles.
While most events have been paused during COVID-19, Palmer Home has continued its outreach to the community via a partnership with 94FM The Fish. They will host a radiothon on Tuesday, May 4 – an entire day of programming focused on their ministry – and have sponsorship opportunities available. This is an excellent way for faith based businesses and individuals to support these families.
Another great local Nashville organization they’ve recently partnered with is Project Redesign, which provides room makeovers for low-income families. Palmer Home is working with the organization to provide room makeovers for their Family Care moms after they are released from prison.
Expressing optimism, O’Leary focused on the long term success of her organization. “We celebrated our 125th year of service last year and have served more children and families than ever before. We know from our history that the pandemic will sadly bring more children to Palmer Home, but we stand ready to help.”
James 1:27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. Faith is one aspect of life that binds us together in our community. But, more visceral than faith is voluntarism. Voluntarism connects our natural gifts with service to others. There is a way out of those dark moments – where we dwell in our own daily hardships– when we reach out and lend a helping hand to others. It is in these moments of expressing love to a complete stranger that we find our way back to connectivity with the world and discover that while our human needs will always be great, we can quench that thirst named desire.
There is nothing more beautiful than someone who goes out of their way to make life beautiful for others.²
Reach out to Ali O’Leary at firstname.lastname@example.org or (615) 630-0632 to discuss volunteer and philanthropic opportunities with Palmer Home for Children. She would love to talk with you about different opportunities to raise community awareness and funds to support their mission to care for vulnerable children.
Tennessee Speaks is working to connect individuals to the community and community to resources.
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¹ Booker T. Washington ² Mandy Hale