Baptist Children’s Home comes full circle

Published 9:21 am Thursday, April 29, 2010

ST. JOHN — In a sense it’s history 125 years in the making and now it has come full circle.

In 1885, nine-year-old Mary Presson of Hertford County boarded a train hand-in-hand with John Mitchell, Pastor of what was then Ahoskie Baptist Church. Their destination was 200 miles away in Thomasville and Mary was to be the first child taken into the care of the Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina (BCH).

One hundred and twenty-five years later, Hertford County will have a locally-based children’s home in the form of Britton Ministries.

On Sunday, representatives from BCH, the West Chowan Baptist Association and Baptist State Convention of North Carolina joined local officials and the Britton family in breaking ground on a new BCH group home.

The home will be located on a triangle-shaped plot of land bordered by St. John Menola, Flea Hill and Britton Roads near the St. John community.

The facility will provide residential services to aid children and families in the northeastern area of the state. Britton Ministries will be able to house up to nine boys and girls. With $700,000 already raised for the first phase of the project, BCH hopes to soon meet its $750,000 goal and have the facility completed by early next year.

Before the ground breaking, approximately 200 guests gathered at St. John Baptist Church for a program.

West Chowan Baptist Association Director of Missions John Pond shared the integral role the association (then the Chowan Baptist Association) played in funding the first children’s home in Thomasville.

In 1885, prior to Presson’s train ride to Thomasville, area churches agreed to give a $1,250 donation towards establishing the first children’s home. The Chowan Baptist Association was the first of the statewide Baptist associations to contribute.

“It just so happens (the first home) it’s in Thomasville; now it’s come back home,” said Pond.

Area churches now in the West Chowan Baptist Association have shown even more support to Britton Ministries.

Connarista Baptist Church in Aulander recently donated $10,000 for the project—the largest contribution in the church’s history.

BCH President Michael C. Blackwell commended those dedicated to the project.

“We are so grateful to the Britton family as well as our fellow Baptists and community friends for making the dream of this much-needed home a reality,” he said. “I can think of no better way to celebrate Baptist Children’s Homes’ 125th anniversary than to establish Britton Ministries and offer hope and healing to children and families in northeastern North Carolina.”

Ahoskie Mayor Linda Blackburn and Hertford County Commission Chair Johnnie Farmer brought greetings from their respective boards.

“Your vision and dedication to establish a home in this area is to be commended,” said Blackburn. “Children deserve to be able to share in every good thing life offers.”

Farmer said the commissioners get excited each time a new business comes to the area, but they were even more excited with the purpose of Britton Ministries.

“We’re excited it’s for the children,” he said. “The children are our future.”

David Phelps, member of the Board of Directors Baptist State Convention and Director of Atlantic Baptist, spoke of how the local association can help with the future of Britton Ministries. “Everything begins with a dream and God’s people always keep faith,” he said. “Today as we break ground, dream of what can be 150 years from now.”

The dream of the local home would never have been possible without the donation of land by the Britton family.

Mary Anne Croom spoke on behalf her fellow Britton family members.

“This is a day the Lord hath made,” she said excitedly.

Croom shared her family’s decision to donate what was once her grandparents’ land to the vision.

“Nothing could honor them more than a Baptist Children’s Home on their property,” she said.

Croom identified with Mary Presson.

“I am a child today and I’m saying, ‘I’m coming home’,” she said. “Thank you for making the dreams of a big girl and a little girl come true.”