By Jessica Brodie
SUMMERVILLE—A new hub to help foster families and children in the Lowcountry is now up and running.
On Aug. 29, Epworth Children’s Home held the official grand opening for its new Lowcountry Hub, the first outpost of the Columbia-based children’s home and a project of Epworth’s Institute for Child and Family Wellbeing. The hub is housed in a cottage on the campus of Bethany United Methodist Church, and will help the Lowcountry deliver foster care locally.
Epworth President and Chief Executive Officer the Rev. John Holler said the Charleston District hub is the pilot, and future outposts will be modeled on what happens there Epworth has a plan to eventually launch outposts in all 12 districts of the South Carolina Conference of the UMC to reach children and families beyond its base in Columbia.
Epworth staff, including Epworth’s Director of Foster Care and Adoptions McBee Zimmerman, are working to recruit, license, support and equip foster families.
Dozens of supporters gathered outside the hub Aug. 29 for a ribbon cutting and grand opening celebration, which featured words of appreciation from Holler, Zimmerman and other dignitaries. After, the crowd headed in for a tour of the hub and a reception, including plenty of Epworth ice cream.
“We’ve needed this,” said Summerville Mayor W. Wiley Johnson, noting what Epworth is doing is special and will be a great asset to the community.
Holler said Epworth is trying to do its best to keep children with people who will love them and take care of them.
“We want every child to make sure they know he or she is a part of God’s miraculous creation,” Holler said.
Enid Jenkins, Department of Social Services Lowcountry regional director, shared before the crowd how even before the hub had its grand opening, it had already been helping local children. The night prior, they were able through Epworth to place a sibling group together in a Lowcountry foster home.
“I thank Epworth for their efforts and for realizing the need to venture out of Columbia and to the Lowcountry,” Jenkins said to applause.
She urged people to think about what they can do to help, whether it is becoming a foster family or stepping up to support fostering by bringing over a casserole or offering other assistance.
Zimmerman also lifted up the placement of the siblings the evening prior.
“That is why we are here,” Zimmerman told the crowd. “At the end of the day, I would like more homes than children waiting.”
Zimmerman said they have an aggressive goal of lining up 25 foster homes by the end of the year. She said 15 families are already in the process.
Bethany UMC pastors the Rev. Mitch Houston and the Rev. Narcie Jeter were also on hand at the opening. Jeter blessed the hub before the crowd.
“Let this house be a refuge no matter the storm,” she prayer, anointing the hub with oil.
Epworth’s Institute for Child and Family Wellbeing is a key part of Epworth’s Every Child is a Miracle campaign for program expansion. Since its start as an orphanage in 1896 to its broader scope today, Epworth Children’s Home has been doing its best to fulfill its mission to serve children, youth, and families through a caring, accepting and safe Christian community.
Epworth said at least 20 Charleston District churches are engaged in foster and kinship parent recruitment and awareness. The local office of the Department of Social Services reports a need of at least 250 foster homes to meet immediate needs.
Dr. Sandra Stevens-Poirel, Charleston District superintendent, and Dr. David Braddon, Charleston District lay leader, said they are pleased to be a part of this ministry to children and families.
For more on Epworth and how to get involved, visit www.epworthchildrenshome.org.
By Jessica Brodie