RESIDENT OF HOME FOR CHILDREN IN ‘80s & ‘90s
“My older brother and I came to live at Christian City on May 5, 1988, because my single mother could not provide adequate housing, food and clothing for us.”
I was 11 years old and my brother was 13. Although heartbreaking at the time, my mother’s decision to bring us to Christian City led us to a better life and a loving family. Brave and strong, my biological mother made a tough choice to provide a better life for her boys.
I lived at Christian City for 8 years until I graduated high school. And I graduated with honors!
Before Christian City, we bounced around to different extended family members’ homes, never staying in one place for very long. After coming to Christian City, I gained a peace of mind, because this was the first time I did not have to worry about food on the table, having clean clothes, or being able to go to school. This was also the first time my life was focused on Christ.
Now more than three decades later, I owe my success in life to the solid foundation provided by Christian City, guided by my wonderful house parents, Cheryl and Mike Cater, who provided love, structure, and stability.
Transitioning from living with my brother and mother to being surrounded by a large family unit was difficult at first. At that time, most of the kids at Christian City were privately placed by their families, rather than being placed through the state DFCS program. It was common for kids to stay for longer periods of time or even live at Christian City for the remainder of their childhoods.
I lived in one of the cottages with a bunch of other boys and the biological children of my house parents. Surprisingly, I quickly felt at ease and adapted to my loving family home environment; they became like my own brothers and parents. I still share a special relationship and a strong bond with each one of them.
My house parents were a nurturing and natural influence. I watched Dad Cater work hard each day to provide for his family, instilling a strong work ethic and a sense of pride in a job well done. These and other life lessons rubbed off on me, too. I worked hard while living at Christian City by doing pick-ups for Graceland, the local thrift store on campus, and stocking the food pantry that served the Home for Children (now known as Christian City Children’s Village).
Before being placed at Christian City, I struggled in school. Through tutors and an individualized teaching method, I began to excel in school and graduated with honors from Mt. Pisgah Christian School. I owe my academic success to having people in my life who wanted me to do better and could provide the means for me to excel.
Also, I was thrilled to have a supportive dad and coach that I could rely on consistently. I was always athletic and played a variety of sports while adjusting to a new school, life, and family. In high school, I played baseball and basketball, and Dad Cater was the coach of both. Many of my brothers were also on the teams.
Some of my fondest memories at Christian City centered around playing sports with my Christian City family, whether it was school-sponsored or a pick-up game on the playground.
Over the years, I have reflected on my biological mother’s decision to bring us to Christian City. Now I know she was brave and strong, and I fully recognize the unbelievably tough choice she made to provide a better life for her boys. The first few years at Christian City were difficult on our relationship, and we had minimal contact. However, Christian City always encouraged and facilitated relationships with biological parents, and as a result, my mom and I eventually reconnected. To this day, we have a wonderful relationship and my biological mom and stepfather are a huge part of my life. No doubt, she did the right thing by bringing me and my brother to Christian City.
The importance of faith, family, giving back, and hard work are just a few of the values impressed upon me during my time at Christian City. Graduating from high school with honors is one of my biggest accomplishments, and I’m thankful for the countless hours and many late nights spent studying with tutors and my house parents. Immediately after high school graduation, I began working full-time and moved to an apartment with the Caters’ oldest son, my brother.
When I was 20 years old, I joined Delta Air Lines. Over the next two decades, I worked my way up to supervisor in the Customer Care Department. I remember attending the annual Christmas party Delta employees hosted for the Home for Children when I was living at Christian City. Now that experience has come full circle as my wife and I are members of the Delta employee committee that sponsors and runs the annual event.
My wife Crystal and I have been married since 2005, and we give back to Christian City any way we can. In 2018, I hosted a party at the Children’s Village commemorating the 30th anniversary of my arrival at Christian City, a time that was such an important turning point in my life! Just as Christian City was here for me and my brother in the late ‘80s, I want to help ensure that loving homes are available for any children who come to Christian City in need.
After two decades of employment at Delta, an opportunity to manage Christian City’s Graceland Thrift Store opened in 2018. I jumped at the chance to “come home” and meet the challenge of running the store and raising funds to continue supporting the Children & Family Programs. Mom and Dad Cater retired as house parents a few years ago, and they decided to continue living in an active senior residence at Christian City. The Caters have been two of my biggest supporters and volunteers as I have worked to rebuild Graceland into the thriving store I remember from the ‘90s.
I live by the motto “pay it forward.” If I can reach out to five people and help one person, and that one person reaches out to five more, the world will be a better place. I witnessed this positive ripple effect first hand while living at Christian City. Because my life was dependent on people giving to support my home and education at Christian City, I want to give back to the community that gave so much to me. Going to work at Graceland each day allows me to work toward fulfilling that mission. I want to make a difference in the lives of children who need someone to care enough to help.