“The memory of the righteous is a blessing.” Proverbs 10:7
Randy Jones – “You don’t have to live here to be family. And I’m proof.”
My story with Christian City began in the spring of 1989 – 30 years ago. At the time I was the operating superintendent for a trucking company, and I was cutting grass on the side. I didn’t know anything about Christian City when Knowles Industrial, the company that had the landscaping contract at Christian City, asked me to share the work. I resigned from the trucking company and started my own full-time landscaping business, Jones Industrial. I was in my early thirties at the time.
Looking back now three decades later, I believe sharing the landscaping contract at Christian City was God sent! Sometimes you don’t know what God has planned for you until you get it. At the time, a friend of mine told me not to look back. He told me to give it to God and let Him handle it. I decided to go with it, and I thank God for what He’s done.
About ten years later, Knowles’ business shifted to selling lawn care equipment, and they were planning to give up the Christian City landscaping contract. When I was offered the contract…
…to handle all the landscaping, I hesitated because I didn’t know if I could handle it. Then I started thinking and said, yeah, I’ll do it. I don’t know how, but I’m going to do it. I believe in asking the Lord about it and saying “Lord, if it’s your will, I’m going to do it.” And I’ve been doing it ever since.
Christian City is a big campus. This is our biggest account, and we take care of everything outdoors. We’re out here every week with a crew of four to six. While the crew is working on campus, I’m here checking on projects and getting ready for the next week. We take care of any tree work, and handle grading and spraying at the community garden, too.
Between work, church and the farm, it’s a busy life, but it’s rewarding. My wife and I have been married 44 years, and we live on our farm in Meriwether County. I have two sons and 6 grandkids. All of us are active in the church. I do a lot at church because I don’t want to say “no” when it’s God’s work. But, I don’t do it to be recognized. God knows about it, and that’s what matters.
An idle mind is the devil’s playpen, so I try to stay busy all the time. One of my best friends tells me that I’m either a hundred miles an hour or zero. He told me I’m either wide open or stopped, and I need to get middle way somehow. A Christian City resident at Hilltop Acres told me “Randy, as long as I’ve known you, you’ve been wide open. It’s a job slowing down, but you’ve got to slow it down a little bit because you’re wide open.” That’s the smartest man I know.
My daddy told me, “listen to the elders. They can teach you something.” After so many years working at Christian City, the senior residents and staff have become like family to me, and I try to listen and learn from them.
When I started at Christian City in 1989, the current Recreation Center was a children’s home. There were five homes clustered in the center of the original Christian City Home for Children campus before the Children’s Village was relocated to another part of the Christian City property.
Altogether, there were eight original homes for the children. The playground was where the walking track is now, and the children knew we would be here cutting grass at 2:00 or 3:00 on Tuesday, but they were never ready to go inside. At least one of the children would always ask to play a little longer. I’d tell my crew, “let’s go across the road to cut over there and let them play a little longer.” If the kids were having fun, we were all for it. I knew the house parents who were here then and some of them now live at Christian City in retirement homes. Still today, anything I can do for the kids or donate to help the kids at Christian City, I’ll do it.
Christian City is family to a lot of people. You don’t have to live here to be family. And I’m proof. I would tell any vendor to “do the best job you can do because Christian City will look out for you.” The great thing about working here is we’re not doing it as a job; it’s a ministry. Everybody has their own ministry here. I would tell any vendor “even though you’re being paid, you’re being blessed, also.” I’ll say it again – you don’t have to live at Christian City to be part of this family.
Christian City Children & Family Programs received $10,000 from 100 Coweta Women Who Care, to serve the residents of Coweta County. Newnan and Coweta County fire stations and law enforcement departments are Safe Place locations, which are served by Christian City, a licensed National Safe Place agency with a mission to rescue youth from human traffickers and the perils of living on the streets. Coweta Communities in Schools is also a partner with Christian City in this effort. For the past three years, three boys from Coweta County have been full-time residents of Christian City Children’s Village. In addition, Christian City’s Crossroads Foster Care & Adoption Program is working with four foster families from Coweta County to place children in stable, loving homes.
About Coweta Women Who Care
Coweta Women Who Care is a program of the Coweta Community Foundation. 100 women gather quarterly to donate money and award a grant of $10,000 to a single organization that is serving the residents of Coweta County.
About Christian City
Christian City was established 54 years ago when the first cottage for abused and abandoned children opened on Valentine’s Day, 1965. Today, there are more than 1,000 residents, both children, and older adults, living at Christian City in south metro Atlanta. In addition to four Children & Family Programs (Children’s Village Residential Program, Crossroads Foster Care & Adoption Program, Safe Place Runaway & Homeless Youth Program, and Thrive Graduate Transition Program), the campus includes 500 retirement homes and apartments for active seniors, a 200-bed skilled nursing and rehabilitation center, a 150-bed assisted living center, and two memory care units. For more information or to learn how you can help, call 770-703-2636 or visit christiancity.org.
Union City, Ga – Shoppers and associates at Publix stores in metro Atlanta’s southern crescent generously donated $30,219.59 to Christian City Children’s Village during the annual “Food For All” campaign in October and November 2018. “Give Hope” themed boards were displayed at register areas, where Publix customers and associates supported the campaign with $1, $3, or $5 donations.
More than $1.4 million was distributed by Publix Super Markets, Inc. to 69 nonprofit organizations in Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee. The annual event raises funds to support community nonprofits with a focus on hunger-relief and self-sufficiency at a local and regional level.
Marc Pater, Customer Service Manager, and Lauren Ledbetter, Assistant Customer Service Manager, at Publix-Tyrone presented the donation check at Christian City Children’s Village in March 2019.
George Martin, Executive Vice President of Christian City, thanked Publix Super Markets for making a difference in the lives of children in metro Atlanta’s southern crescent. “We are grateful to the many individuals, churches, businesses, civic groups and foundations who support our ministries and help us care for abused and abandoned children. The Publix Food For All campaign is a wonderful example of a community coming together to provide for children in need,” Martin said.
Christian City, located in Union City, between Fairburn and Fayetteville, cares for children of abuse and abandonment through its Children’s Village Residential Program, Safe Place Runaway & Homeless Youth Program, Crossroads Foster Care & Adoption Program, and Thrive Graduate Transition Program.
The program’s positive impact is demonstrated by an ongoing 100% high school graduation rate among high school seniors at the Christian City Children’s Village. LaVann Landrum, Chief Development Officer, expressed thanks to Publix saying, “Fundraisers like the Publix “Food For All” campaign help us to fulfill our promise to provide life-changing hope through faith, community and care. With an annual operating budget of $3.5 million, every donation counts. We are grateful for each and every Publix shopper who chose to help our children by donating during the 2018 campaign.”
About Christian City
Christian City was established 54 years ago when the first cottage for abused and abandoned children opened on Valentine’s Day, 1965. Today, there are more than 1,000 residents, both children and older adults, living at Christian City in south metro Atlanta. In addition to the four Children & Family Programs, the campus includes retirement homes and apartments for active seniors, a 200-bed skilled nursing and rehabilitation center, a 150-bed assisted living center, and two memory care units. For more information or to learn how you can help, call 770-703-2636 or visit christiancity.org.
Publix is privately owned and operated by its more than 200,000 employees, with 2017 sales of $34.6 billion. Currently Publix has 1,213 stores in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia. The company has been named one of Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work for in America” for 21 consecutive years. In addition, Publix’s dedication to superior quality and customer service is recognized among the top in the grocery business. For more information, visit the company’s website, corporate.publix.com.
ACTIVE SENIOR RESIDENTS AND VOLUNTEERS
Raenelle and Bob Stockmeier – Patio Home Residents Since 2011
The big brown bus rolled into the Dairy Queen parking lot. Shrieks of joy from 13 elementary school age girls (and one little boy) reverberated throughout the cavernous Dodge van! A wonderful surprise visit to America’s ice cream fantasy land! The girls (and one little boy) were relishing the thought of tasty treats! But then the driver swerved back onto the road that led to home; Christian City, Flint cottage. The girls (and one little boy) were crestfallen, but they knew Dad Stockmeier loved to joke with them.
God works in mysterious ways and is not shy about turning us completely around to travel in another direction to do the work He bids us to do. I was in my sixth year of public school teaching, building a solid career. My wife, Rae, our children, my parents (Bob and Jeanette), sister Janice, and brother Terry were all living in the town where I was born and raised. I had not even the smallest thought of leaving Ohio. None.
But then . . . My father died suddenly only two years after my youngest brother, Leslie, had died in an automobile accident. I felt like I needed…
…to be somewhere else – maybe just for a while. When I look back, I see that God was turning me in the life direction that He had purposed for me since being formed in Jeanette Stockmeier’s womb.
Ray and Annelle Black, Rae’s parents, were some of the first house parents at Christian City Home for Children in the 1960s. They were the beloved “Dad” and “Mom” to a home full of younger boys and later to the older girls. Having known Bob (Christian City’s first Executive Director) and Doreen Puckett and Jack Roebuck (Superintendent), my father-in-law arranged an interview and we were hired as house parents in the early 1970s. In a short time, we came to love Jack. He loved God. And he loved the house parents. Jack had a special love in his heart and soul for Christian City’s children. We learned from Jack to strive to love these children as God did. They were family. He saw loving house parents as essential in the familial lives and development of our divinely placed children. I remember Jack saying in a house parents’ meeting that “If house parents need something, and we don’t have it, we need to go out and dig a hole to find it.”
I was a “Yankee” in Georgia! A vivid memory from my first days in Georgia (Raenelle is Georgia-born and cultured, a “preacher’s kid,” — she really is a Georgia peach) a little guy from a nearby cottage walked up to this stranger and asked me, “Is this you-alser’s house?” I knew I was in the south! I can show you the spot today, after almost 50 years, where this cute little guy asked his question! Although it took a little time for the indigenous folks and myself to fully understand each other, we all had good-natured fun with one another.
Summarizing our years as Christian City house-parents brings back many memories.
With great fondness, I remember managing the Union City “Colts” baseball team for 11 and 12-year-old boys. 1973 was an especially good year; we won the local Georgia Amateur Baseball League title! Another house parent, Clyde Moore, was the coach and one of his sons, Danny, was on the team. Danny is all grown up now and works at Christian City.
Raenelle and I grew and matured in the Lord at Christian City. Our sense of love of family expanded to include all 13 girls (and one little boy). Three of those girls were our daughters, and, the one little boy on the bus? Our tow-headed son. I remember shopping trips in the early ‘70s to the Richway store on Old National Highway. People did a double-take when they heard 14 children call us “Mom” and “Dad!” That was special to both of us.
After serving as house parents at Christian City for three years, I returned to the classroom and taught junior high and senior high history and geography for the next 38 yea
And now a little bit from “Little Bit” (Rae):
While Bob was having fun teaching, I worked at Southern Bell/BellSouth and later was a deputy clerk for the Commissioner of Roads and Revenue, and even later as Assistant City Clerk in a town outside of Athens. Then, somehow, time, as it often does, sneaked up on us and we “retired” in 2011.
Where to go? Not much time was spent on the “where.” We would retire to a place that we loved – Christian City! Back home! Our new neighbors quickly extended invitations to their church homes. We live in the Harper Valley community at Christian City and believe it is a very special place to live. (I am sure that others feel that way about their own Christian City community – there are four patio home communities and four apartment complexes.)
We all look out for one another. We’re following the two greatest commandments found in God’s Word when we love the Lord our God with all our heart and love our neighbors as ourselves.
We desire to serve the Lord here at this time and in this place as many of our neighbors do the same. Volunteer service fulfills a very important part of the day-to-day needs at Christian City, especially now that the campus has grown to hundreds of acres.
When we were here in the ‘70s, Red Oak Road was a dirt road to Highway 138. There were few senior patio homes, no welcome center, no apartments, no assisted living facility, no rehab or skilled nursing center, no thrift store, and no Children’s Village of today—just four cottages housing the Home for Children.
Today, all of these places use volunteers on a daily basis—in some cases, the need is for someone to just give a smile, a word of encouragement, or a listening ear. You don’t have to sing, play the piano, dance, or give a speech—just the giving of your time and presence is a present given in love to Christian City’s residents.
I enjoy volunteering to play the piano and sing at the Wednesday morning Bible study in the Christian City Assisted Living Center’s Memory Care floor. It brings such joy to me when one of the residents recognizes a song and begins to sing the words! Joy! This is a part of being a volunteer with the Spiritual Care office and it is a great place in which to volunteer. (Bob’s parents had a 30-resident nursing home in Ohio—’reckon that’s where we got our love of ministering to our senior community!)
My part-time work at Lester Road Christian Church (just up the hill from Christian City) keeps me busy during the week, but I still have time before our church’s worship service on Sunday mornings to volunteer at Fairburn Health Care where Bob teaches Bible truths to the residents and I lead the singing. The residents are precious people and souls there, too. Precious souls are everywhere! It is my privilege to minister to God’s children here at Christian City and at FHC.
More from Bob:
A favorite volunteer ministry of mine, aided by Rae, Myrna Johnson (Life Enrichment Director) and her wonderful CNAs, is the weekly People’s Club event, which was created for the spiritual, social and artistic enrichment of senior residents not only at Christian City, but also for those in the senior retirement neighborhoods that surround Christian City.
We have speakers, musicians, singers, preachers, motivational speakers, authors, public servants, and many other great folks in the People’s Club lineup. For their ministry, we thank each featured speaker/entertainer for giving their time and talent for the benefit of our residents. For many Christian City residents, People’s Club is a chance to gather with neighbors to socialize, be entertained and learn something!
Yes—we loved Christian City in the 1970s and we love Christian City today. We are blessed to live among residents, staff and leaders who strive to love our neighbors as God commands.
Truly, the Lord was, and still is, in this place called Christian City!
RESIDENT OF CHILDREN’S VILLAGE – 2002 to 2012
I was 9 years old when I came to Christian City on Mother’s Day in 2002.
There were four of us – my older brother who was 13, my 11-year-old sister, and my younger brother who was 5. We were taken out of a very messy home, and I came to Christian City with just a black bag of clothes. It was very sad at the time, but now I know it was for the better.
A year after being at Christian City, my grandma passed away. If we had stayed with her instead of going to Christian City, we would have been homeless after her death. I realized then that Christian City was for the better.
But, Christian City was different. We had a much bigger family there, and it took about a year or two of getting used to living with a bigger family. And we all went to private school, which was great. I went to private school from 6th grade up to graduation – Bedford through middle school and Lighthouse for high school. The camps were awesome, too. I loved WinShape Camp and Squirrel Hollow Camp.
We went to church every Sunday when I lived at Christian City. I went to Peachtree City Christian Church and was involved in some of the youth activities. Going to church every Sunday was new to me, but I liked it. I got to meet new friends and a lot of people.
While at Christian City, I lived in two of the first cottages built in the 1960s – Flint Cottage and Price Cottage. They were made of cinderblock. Flint Cottage is now the new Recreation Center for…
retired seniors who live at Christian City. I was able to walk through it while it was being remodeled in 2018.
The Children’s Village of today was built during the time I was living at Christian City.
The new cottages were awesome! The buildings were all new with the latest designs, including drywall instead of cinderblock. Our furniture was new, too. I actually moved into the first new cottage that was built, and the open floorplan made a big difference. We had a study area with three new computers instead of one computer for eight people to use like at the older cottages.
When I think about what life was like at Christian City, I remember pushing the grocery carts when the family went shopping at Sam’s Club, Walmart or Kroger. We always needed several carts! A typical day for our family with Mom and Dad Cater began with getting up in the morning and getting into the van to go to school. After we were picked up from school, we went home and did homework. Afterwards, sometimes I’d leave with Dad Cater to pick up kids who played sports. We’d come back home and Mom Cater fixed dinner. Mom and Dad Cater were good cooks, and I learned a little bit about cooking from them.
After dinner, we had to do chores. Each person had an assigned chore for a week. I’d clear the table, load the dishwasher, and wash dishes. I didn’t like that part. Doing dishes was my least favorite chore, but I didn’t mind vacuuming, because it was easy with the big open floor plan of the house.
Mom and Dad Cater cared about us kids. If we needed something, they helped us get it. They were easy to talk to. If I had a hard day at school, I could talk to Mom and Dad Cater and they would help me calm down.
I volunteered at Graceland Thrift Store at Christian City when I was 15. We weren’t paid, but we got an allowance. One important thing I learned at Christian City was to save money. I was taught to work for what I wanted, and money was put into a savings account. I still do that. It is true that you value things more when you work for them.
After I graduated from high school, I moved over into the graduate transition apartment located on the older campus at Christian City. I lived there for 6 months.
I’m 26 now, and I’ve been in Florida for 7 years. Life was moving along pretty good until last year when I lost my home in Mexico Beach during Hurricane Michael, a category 4 storm.
My wife, Brittany, and I were engaged at the time. She is a police officer, and she was still on duty when I was told to evacuate. All our belongings had been placed upstairs in our house with only flooding expected. Brittany was told to evacuate the next day, and we rode out the storm together in a hotel in Dothan, Alabama, watching CNN the whole time.
When we saw the news the next morning with overhead footage of the destruction, we knew everything was gone and we had nothing to go back to. The 100-mile drive from Dothan to Mexico Beach took 13 hours. We salvaged some stuff – a toy box, some memorabilia, and I got some of my work clothes out of the rubble.
In November, we decided to get married on the slab where our home had been located.
We cut down trees and found wood in the rubble to make the benches, and everything for our wedding was donated, including food. Brittany’s dress was donated from Bainbridge, Georgia, where she grew up. Our photographer came all the way from Orlando. She heard about our story and wanted to take free wedding photos for us.
Everything was set up the day of the wedding, and it was a major hit. Brittany’s police sergeant performed the ceremony. Since we didn’t have electricity, our music was played from a police intercom and a phone. Even the police chief got involved. Since there were no street signs, the chief and a fellow officer put his police car at the top of the road to mark where our wedding was being held.
It was different, but I would not change a thing. It was memorable, and it made news headlines! It was closure for us to get married on the foundation slab. Brittany described our wedding as being “from the end of an era to a new beginning.” That made sense to me.
We’ve decided to move 15 minutes inland. A friend bought the land for us, and we just closed on the property. We’ll have a modular home placed on it and go from there.
I’m a volunteer firefighter, and my paying job is with the Mexico Beach public works department. My job is to dredge the mouth of the canal to make boaters happy. Right now, we have no boaters, because of the storm. I dredge the canal to keep it open, so water keeps flowing out.
When I first came to Florida and took a job in the City public works department, my boss asked if I knew how to operate a barge. When I said I didn’t, he told me I was about to learn. I’ve been operating a barge for seven years now. I know the position very well, but I’ve also worked every position in the city. For the past two months, I’ve been working in the sewer and water department. I can do every position, and my goal is to move up in city employment.
I credit my time at Christian City with preparing me to be a good employee and hard worker.
When people ask me where I grew up, I tell them I grew up at Christian City, a foster home in Union City, Georgia. I get asked that a lot down here in Florida. I learned a lot from being at Christian City. If I hadn’t been there, I probably wouldn’t be the person I am today.
I still enjoy church in Florida like I did at Christian City. My church here was destroyed in the storm, but I have a new home church. It takes me an hour to drive there, and sometimes we miss because of our work schedules. It’s so important to have a church family when you’re going through hard times.
If I were asked to talk to a 9-year-old boy who had just come to Christian City to live, I would let him know the house parents are there for him. I would tell him it may be hard for a couple of months, but it will get better and he’ll make friends. There’s always somebody he can talk to. I’d let him know it’s going to be okay, because I’ve been there. I remember what it’s like.
See the TV story about Ben Parham’s unique wedding on the slab of his hurricane-devastated home.
PHILANTHROPISTS & CHRISTIAN CITY SUPPORTERS
Marie and Steve Swope – A Marriage Strengthened by Serving Together
You celebrated your 41st wedding anniversary in 2018. How did you meet and how has serving together impacted your marriage over the years?
Marie: We met when we were 16 working at the same department store in Atlanta. We went to different high schools. After graduation, Steve went to Georgia Southern College, and I went to Georgia State. After a year, he came back to Atlanta and enrolled at Georgia State. We got married in our junior year, and both graduated from Georgia State with bachelor’s degrees in marketing. Steve went to work at Delta Air Lines and I went to work for a chemical company.
Together, we’ve always served by doing things for other people. We do that within the context of our church, our community, our family and our friends. That’s one reason Marie and I have such a strong connection. We’ve both got the same mindset about service. We serve others because that’s how we were raised, and we tried to raise our kids the same way.
What’s your philosophy about the best way to make an impact through philanthropy…
I really do believe when it comes to giving, everything we do is for ourselves and for someone else. When you do something for someone else, it involves sacrifice because you could be doing something for yourself instead. As we in life have come to understand, one of the greatest pleasures is doing things for other people. It does call for sacrifice, and you’re not willing to sacrifice unless you care. Once you care about something, it’s easy to sacrifice. You see it many times with tutoring, charitable giving, people that do volunteer work. It’s because they care about that cause, they care about that person. They’re willing to give of themselves. Whether it’s their time, or their skill, or their financial resources, giving always involves a sacrifice. What value does life have if you keep everything for yourself? The more you love something, the more you’ll sacrifice for it.
We’ve always done good things. We’ve always volunteered. When the sale of the second company came along, it enabled us to do the major things. And I had way more time to fill than I had before the kids were grown. That’s when I got involved with the GED and Literacy program in Newnan. I’ve been volunteering now for 17 years, and it is the best thing I do every week.
Throughout our entire married life, we’ve always given of ourselves and financially to the degree we could. Even when we first got married, we did things in our church community mostly. When we moved to Newnan, we began to get more involved. We’ve always supported charities, church work, and schools to the degree we could. I don’t think we’ve changed. But what has changed is our capacity to do good. We can have a bigger impact than we could have otherwise.
The Bible says, “the more someone is given, the more that is expected of them.” I believe those of us who are given a lot have a responsibility to give back. Steve and I treat ourselves pretty well, but we don’t to the detriment of other people. That’s how we got started giving in a bigger way. We made the decision to Biblically tithe, and we took 10 percent of what we made on the sale of the company and set it aside to go to charity. We decided to support local charities and most of them are dealing with children.
I feel strongly about this: it’s easy to write a check, and we could have said, “we’ll just write a check,” to all of these different organizations. It’s much harder to give of yourself, but that’s what we do. We don’t just write checks. We’re on the ground and working.
What motivates you to support children’s charities in particular?
Probably 95 percent of what we do is targeted to children and vulnerable people within our community. When Marie said the most enjoyable thing for her during the week is the GED program, mine is when we go to the Title I school on Wednesday and tutor kids for a couple of hours. We’re in our third year now. The kids remember who we are, and we only see them once or twice a month. There were 25 we worked with last year. They come running down the hall when they see us, and we love working with them. Some of them say they only want to work with the “boy” Swope, not the “girl” Swope.
These are children who desperately need attention, and they’re struggling on so many levels. They’re food insecure, need clothing, sleeping on one cousin’s couch this week and another cousin’s couch the next, or in need of a bath. It’s really tough, but these kids are so optimistic.
You mentioned being involved with your church community throughout your marriage. How have you grown through serving your church?
I was raised a Methodist, but when I was 17, I converted to become a Roman Catholic. I went to mass a couple of times with Marie during our early dating years. When I was at Georgia Southern, a couple of my friends were Catholic. I went to church with them a few times, and I met with a priest in Stone Mountain. I found a depth in the Catholic church that I didn’t have previously. Maybe it was just that I was too immature to understand. So I became Catholic, and we’ve been very faithful churchgoers ever since we got married. Marie’s dad is a deacon, and in 2002 our pastor asked me if I was interested in becoming a deacon. I applied, started in 2003, went through the 5 years of formation and in February 2008, I was ordained.
Shortly thereafter, I was told the archbishop wanted to meet with me. They wanted me to be director of the formation program for all the permanent deacons. I told them I couldn’t do it, because I was CEO of a company. I had a full-time job, and there was no way that was going to work. The archbishop suggested I go home and pray about it. On the way home, I called Marie who reminded me I had been thinking about getting out of business and maybe this was my path out. I took that job. From 2008 to 2011, I had my full-time job as CEO of my company, and part-time job for the archdiocese. God graciously helped us sell the company. Then I went to work full-time for the archdiocese. In that capacity, I’ve done a lot of things, and I was director of formation for the permanent diaconate for a little over five years.
When Joseph Mitchell died, who was Margaret Mitchell’s nephew, he gave his entire estate to the archdiocese. The archbishop asked me to take that over. Up until last year, I was CEO of the company that had control over the book rights for Gone with the Wind. We still have control over all of Margaret Mitchell’s personal effects, including her press card, library card, Atlanta Journal Constitution employee ID, and driver’s license. Those effects are in our climate-controlled archives, but I’ve been working diligently with UGA, the Smithsonian, and Atlanta History Center, because the artifacts are important to the City of Atlanta. I was at St. George for 32 years, and last year I was transferred and assigned to St. Mary Magdalene in Newnan.
While your family has been connected to Christian City for many years, you became involved just recently. What prompted your engagement?
I’ve always known Christian City was here because my mother volunteered here for over 20 years. Last year, we came to realize what Christian City means to children who could otherwise have a different life story. They could be on the streets, or they could be living in abusive or neglectful situations and perpetuate yet another generation of people who are impoverished or uneducated. Christian City gives these children the chance to break that cycle. The truth is the only way out of poverty is to break the cycle, to give these children another opportunity, and being educated is the biggest opportunity.
We visited Christian City, and LaVann gave us the tour. We met the house parents and toured one of the homes while the children were at school. We found out this is “real.” It is awesome. It’s an effective program, something that works. Everyone we met were genuinely good people with the interest of the folks who live here in mind. It fits perfectly with what we want to do.
The Children’s Village is home. You feel the love, and you see the message. In society, we see the breakdown of families. What Christian City does is give that back. We can think what we want about society changing, but the bottom line is children still need families. Family doesn’t have to look like it looked when Steve and I grew up in suburbia with a mom and a dad, but that concept of family must be there.
I think that’s one of the important messages that Christian City sends out, too – that society is changing, but we’ve got to have families. Children musthave a family. And sometimes they find their family at Christian City. I think that’s one of the reasons we’re so enamored with Christian City and what is being done. It’s the fact that we can change children’s life stories.
What’s the next step for you in your engagement with Christian City?
We invited people to last year’s Drive and Dine, and they were moved when the event co-chairs, Anne and Taylor Josey, spoke. It struck them and touched their hearts. They were moved to give, and perhaps they will go out, inform and invite others.
It’s now our responsibility to inform people. Christian City needs assistance. Any non-profit needs money, and it’s our job to let people know that this place does exist, and that Christian City is a worthy organization to support.
ASSISTED LIVING MEMORY CARE MANAGER
Debra Stegall – Caring for residents since 1982
Working at Christian City is a ministry for me. I was chosen by God to care for His people, and that is the reason for my long duration here. I feel that Christian City impacts the lives of our residents by providing them with a quality home where their spiritual, social, and medical needs are met.
My journey at Christian City began in June 1982 after I graduated from Newnan High School in June 1981. After asking my mom to help me find a job where I would be in a Christian environment, I landed my Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) position at Christian City where I worked as a CNA from 1982 to 1985 while attending nursing school at Atlanta Area Tech. I became a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) at Christian City in 1985.
At that time, LPNs worked evenings and nights on 3-11pm and 11pm-7am shifts. Only RNs worked the 7am-3pm shift. In 1986, I became pregnant. Instead of having morning sickness, I had evening sickness; and I was unable to continue working on the 3-11 shift. Thankfully, I was offered a position that was being vacated by an RN on the 7-3 shift – management of the Alzheimer’s (Wilkerson) Cottage at Christian City, and I’ve been managing Memory Care ever since. Today, I’m certified in Alzheimer’s care as a Certified Dementia Practitioner.
Memory Care sometimes spans generations and multiple members of the same family. Over the past three decades…
…at Christian City, I’ve taken care of a mother, and later down the road, her daughter. I’ve done the same for a husband and wife.
My goal for Memory Care is to provide residents with the care they deserve and keep them functioning at the highest level possible. While some people question how we are able do this work day after day, I find it rewarding to get into their world and make them happy. Also, I am blessed to have a family that believes in the work I do and supports me.
In December 1984, I met my husband, Ray, at Christian City through a mutual friend. Ray proposed to me in March 1985, and we were married in September 1985.
My family is God’s gift to me. Ray and I have three sons and one adopted daughter. Our oldest son is a music teacher. He is married, and they have a daughter. Our middle son is a producer and associate instructor in music. He is married, and they live in Abu Dhabi. Our youngest son is working on a fellowship for the Hudson River Museum. Our daughter is in 10th grade in high school.
I thank God for my husband who is always there for me. When I need volunteer help at Christian City, he gives me the support I need. He enjoys cooking; so when I need someone to handle the grilling for an event at work, Ray is always ready. His male chorus has visited Christian City to sing for our assisted living residents.
Years ago, my husband and I began sharing our family by being a host family for children living at Christian City. We would take the children to our home for weekend, summer, and holiday visits. But that just wasn’t enough, so we became foster parents for Coweta County 2004 and continue to the present. I am also a board member for the Coweta County Foster Parent Association.
Ray and I are adoptive parents and foster parents. Over the years, we have fostered about 25 children, including the five foster children currently in our home. In December 2004, this beautiful little 2-year old came into foster care, and she was placed in our home. When she came up for adoption, we couldn’t let her go, even though she had challenges. We made the decision to adopt her.
My husband and I attended classes at the Marcus Institute in Atlanta to learn to manage a child with ADHD, and the techniques we learned were extremely helpful. Our daughter is now 16 years old. She is a praise dancer, and an energetic young lady who is willing to help whomever she can! Our daughter brought excitement and blessings to our family and church family, and she loves her big brothers. While they have spoiled her with attention, our sons have set a great example for our daughter.
Our family is active and always seems to have something interesting going on! In November 2016, we were blessed with the opportunity to be on the Family Feud television game show. I auditioned with my family, but I didn’t participate in the show. Instead, I afforded my daughter-in-law the chance to play, and they won the $20,000 prize!
As I continue to work at Christian City, I pray, before starting my daily duty, that I will make sure God’s will is done in my life each day. My aim each day is to make a difference in someone’s life to help them reach their highest potential. I know that God will provide me with what I need to meet the residents’ needs. He always has! For anyone considering fostering or adopting a child, I say, “Just do it!” The need is great and so is the blessing.