Presbyterian Home for Children wraps children and families in love

November 13, 2018 by Eva Stimson

A few years ago a desperate mother loaded her seven children in the car and drove across several states to escape an abusive husband. Her journey ended at Presbyterian Home for Children (PHFC) in Talladega, Alabama.

The young woman said she did not want her daughters to grow up fearing men or her sons to have an abusive father as a role model. At Presbyterian Home, the children are growing up in a safe and loving environment and receiving personalized attention in classes at a leadership academy housed at nearby First Presbyterian Church, a partner of PHFC.

The mother, who will graduate from college with a business degree next spring, is now working at Presbyterian Home as a case manager for Secure Dwellings, a program for homeless mothers and children. She is glad to be giving back some of the care and support her family received.

This family is one of many that have found hope and stability at Presbyterian Home for Children, which is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year. “Everything we do here is wrapped in love,” says Doug Marshall, who became President and CEO of PHFC in November 2017.

“Our leadership team on campus has more than 100 years of combined experience in serving at risk and homeless children,” Marshall says. “I’m excited to be part of a team that is called by God to provide hope and healing for children, young adults, and families made in the image of God.”

Acorns falling from the massive oak trees that fill the Home’s 80-acre campus remind him of this mission. “Inside every acorn is an oak tree,” he says. Just so with the people served by PHFC, “We have to look and see their potential.”

The Presbyterian Home is a ministry of Alabama’s three presbyteries—North Alabama, South Alabama, and Sheppards and Lapsley—and receives substantial support from individuals and congregations.

For several decades, another important partner has been the Presbyterian Foundation. The New Covenant Trust Company, a subsidiary of the Foundation, manages investments for PHFC.

Founded in 1868 as an orphanage to care for children left without parents after the Civil War, PHFC now offers a variety of services. Felicia Storey, Vice President of Program Operations and Services for PHFC, has seen many changes since she come on staff in 1985.

“Our programs have reached out to meet the needs of children and families over the years,” she explains. Among the programs offered by PHFC:

  • Secure Dwellings, providing transitional housing for homeless children and their female caregivers
  • Moderate Residential Care for teenage girls removed from their homes because of extreme abuse or neglect
  • Transition to Adult Living, providing room, board, and support services to women, ages 19–24, as they transition to independent living
  • Ascension Leadership Academy, education with a Christian foundation for grades K–12, featuring small class sizes and personalized instruction
  • Family Bridges, offering intensive, in-home support aimed at the reunification and preservation of families
  • Supported Housing that helps break the cycle of homelessness in Alabama

“As the needs of children and families have changed, the Home has changed to meet those needs,” Marshall adds. “One thing that hasn’t changed is our love of children.”

And that includes meeting children where they are. Marshall recalls going to welcome a homeless mother with two sons who came to PHFC in December 2017. “The youngest son was under the bed,” he says. “I climbed under the bed, and that’s where we met.”

Marshall promised to return and do karaoke with the boy. On his second visit, he says, “when I walked over there, he was sitting by the window waiting for me.”

For children who have experienced so many broken promises, Marshall says, “the one thing we must do is promise to love and show up.”

To continue keeping those promises, “we need strong financial resources,” he adds. And that’s where the Presbyterian Foundation has been “an incredible partner. They are part of our team.”

Anita Clemons, the Foundation’s Vice President of Investments, manages investments for PHFC with the goal of continuing to grow their endowments. She says the Foundation provides “a customized, not a cookie-cutter approach” to its clients.

“I provide reporting for PHFC on a quarterly basis,” she explains. “We review how the investments have done, how the markets have done, and any particular needs.”

As a bonus, Robert Hay Jr., the Foundation’s Ministry Relations Officer for the southeast region, has worked with PHFC to cultivate planned giving.

“We’re fortunate to receive legacy gifts—about one a year,” says Newell Witherspoon, treasurer of the board of trustees and chair of the finance committee for PHFC. When supporters of the Home leave money in their wills, those funds are added to the endowments.

Clemons is not surprised that gifts to ministries benefiting children—like PHFC—are in the top two categories of donations handled by the Foundation. “When you’re investing in children, you’re investing in the future.”

Marshall sees the Foundation as a valuable partner in the ministry of PHFC. “They do the complex and detailed work of financial analysis, looking out for our best interest,” he says. “But ultimately, everything they’re doing is ministry.”

For more information or to donate to the ministry of Presbyterian Home for Children, visit, call 256-362-2114, or write Presbyterian Home for Children, 905 Ashland Highway, Talladega, AL 35161.

Eva Stimson is a freelance writer and editor and the former editor of Presbyterians Today. She is an elder serving on the session of Crescent Hill Presbyterian Church in Louisville, Kentucky, where she co-teaches a Sunday school class for elementary-age children and helps with the English Language Learners program. She also serves on the Commission on Preparation for Ministry of the Presbytery of Mid-Kentucky.