Children’s Village Family

Shavonda & Roc


Shavonda & Roc share their family’s journey to reunification with help from the Children’s Village Residential Program; along with comments from Jill & Kelvin Thompson, Human Services Professionals at Christian City for more than three decades.

Roc (Dad):
We met at Marietta High School in 10th grade.

Shavonda (Mom):
I was a teen parent in high school, but he was always there for us, since day one.

We started struggling about three or four years ago,

and we did a lot of shuffling around back-and-forth from Union City to Rome to Cedartown to Douglasville, Georgia, just moving around and getting a temporary roof here and there. The idea of dropping your kids off somewhere while you go off and try to get started was a little much for me. I couldn’t come to terms with the idea, but Shavonda told me that it really wasn’t worth the way we were struggling. She took the big step by coming to Christian City and asking for help.

I learned that not everybody is going to help when you need help. Not everybody is going to be there like you would think. I was cornered at that time, so I decided after that last weekend I spent with my kids in a hotel room that I would come and visit Christian City and at least just see the place. I didn’t have any more money. They needed food.

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I just wanted to make sure that whatever I could provide they would have. Long story short…..we came to Christian City and I was scared and devastated. I have to admit that! I came to Christian City looking for any reason to say “No, I can’t leave my kids there; no, I can’t do this; and no, this is not the right thing.” But, when I got here, it was gorgeous and beautiful. Kids were outside playing everywhere.

I got to meet with the social worker, Kelvin, and talk to him and cry to him like a big baby, and I felt terrible. I felt like I was giving my kids away. I felt horrible. I don’t know if it was Jill, but somebody came in the room and they just comforted me, handed me tissues and water, and told me “You know, we’re not trying to take your kids from you. We’re simply trying to be your hands and feet until you can get back on your feet.” That helped me feel so much better. I don’t know what it was about that statement, but that is really what made me stop and realize “I can do this.”

Kelvin (Human Services Professional – Children’s Village):
When Shavonda approached us about placing her children here, it was an emotional struggle for her. I remember that she would have emotional ups and downs and she would walk away at times feeling confident that this was the right decision and then second-guess herself, because she’s a mother and she doesn’t want to leave her children unattended someplace where she’s not present herself.

In the struggles that I experienced with Shavonda, there were times when I could listen to her and talk to her about those emotional struggles, and then offer a spiritual solution. I think that was very helpful at the time. It seemed to bring a lot of relief to her whenever we would sit down and talk and then also pray, oftentimes over the telephone, just to help her know she was on the right track and making the right decision and then she was re-motivated again.

One of the things that we try to hold onto at the Children’s Village is a wholistic approach to what children need. We are not just a place to house the children and provide for the physical needs, but also the spiritual needs, the emotional needs, the social needs, and the vocational needs. We look at all of it and try to address everything that’s needed for the child while they are here.

Jill (Human Services Professional – Children’s Village):
Family is one of the core parts of our program. We serve families and we want to give the children placed with us a family to be in, which is the house parent mom and dad family figure. They run their home much as any other family would. Kids come home from school. They have dinner time. They might play basketball. They have a bedtime. Meal times are in the dining room and everybody’s in one place sharing that meal together.

The model for Christian City is “it takes a village,” and it does. It’s not just Kelvin and me. It’s not just the birth mom or the house parents. It’s not just the kids. It really takes that team of people working together to bring the family together to bring them home. That’s our goal.

We work extensively with these families to get them back together again and to give them the services and resources that they need in order to come back together again in a healthier manner.

Mom was able to put her children’s needs first. Even though she wanted the kids to be home, she was able to say, “Let’s wait till school is out and then let me come and get them.” So we planned for that. The kids were aware of that plan, and mom worked toward that plan, and it worked out really well. We worked toward increasing visitations so the kids could become acclimated to their new home environment as well as ours. So it worked out really well.

When I called Christian City, I actually got genuine, honest help. I could show people I was serious. I wanted to take this opportunity to get on my feet, get my kids, and get my home in order. I was serious and they took me seriously. I really appreciated that. I’m going to school to get my degree, my bachelor’s degree. it’s a dream come true. A year ago, I was living in my car. I would have never guessed I would be at this point today. That’s amazing.

Shavonda was always invested in coming to the care plan meetings. Sometimes parents are not able to make it to the meetings for different reasons. She made it a point to be at the meetings so we could discuss the goals of her children while they were here. I just appreciated her always being there for her kids. They might’ve been with us, but she was always there for them.

They made sure the kids were learning and developing. When my son got here, he would barely talk, and he had issues with reading. And math he didn’t understand all together. He’s at a point now where he’s better with communicating; his reading is improving; and he even understands math. He hasn’t caught up entirely, but he’s made significant progress, which I can honestly say was because of Christian City. They were amazing.

it was very important to Shavonda to supply the needs she could for her children. She didn’t leave it all up to us. From the beginning, she was self-motivated and really invested in her children and in wanting to get them back home. We saw that by her attending school. She went back to school to get a degree. She established an apartment for them, so that they had a place to go when they started going home every weekend. Each child had a room. She fixed their rooms up and took pictures. It was a really fun process to have them make that return in the last few months.

Saniyah (daughter):
I’m happy to have my family back.

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Steven Farrell


“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.

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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.

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Ben Parham


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…

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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.

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Cathy Mullinax Ledford


Cathy Mullinax Ledford – “…my house parents became my ‘real’ parents…”

I was 10 years old when I came to live at Christian City along with my sister and brother. I’ll never forget the date – April 10, 1977. All my worldly possessions were in a small garbage bag and my hair was in ponytails. Our single mother loved the three of us very much, but she was unable to provide for us. I didn’t know my biological father, but I loved my mother beyond words and knew she loved us unconditionally.

While I’m sure the decision was heartbreaking for our mom, she entrusted Christian City to raise us with strong Christian values in a healthy, happy home. That was one of the best decisions she ever made. Even though I was only in fourth grade, I believe I knew I wanted to break the cycle that led to a life of poverty and poor life choices for my family. I also believe God has a hand in everything through His will.

Thankfully, God led us to the home of Mom and Dad Kimmons at Christian City, a couple with a special gift for loving each child in their care. They encouraged each one of us…

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…to do our best as individuals. My house parents became my “real” parents, and they still are to this day. We talk on the phone regularly, meet for Sunday meals, and celebrate holidays and special occasions together as a family.

When the Kimmons home became a “boys” cottage, I had to move. Eventually, I was blessed to move to the Moore cottage in seventh grade. By that time, I knew and accepted that I would not be reunited with my mother, and I was at peace with it. God closes and opens doors for a reason. In the end, it’s always a blessing.

Mom Moore is one of the most gentle, loving, kind and caring women I have ever known. In fact, John Kimmons and Sarah Moore are two of the most Christ-like people I know today. I named my daughter after Mom Moore. Their positive influence on my childhood was life-changing; and they planted the seed that helped me to break the cycle of poor decision-making that had perpetuated through several generations of my mother’s family.

Dad and Mom Kimmons also planted the seed that led me and my husband, Stuart, to start a small business that has provided for our family and allowed us to send our children to Christian school. I met my husband of 25 years when we were in the same eighth-grade homeroom and on the track team, but we didn’t begin dating until after college. When we married in 1993, my dad, John Kimmons, walked me down the aisle at the church we attended as a family.

Stuart and I have been blessed with three children, now 23, 21 and 19, who have thankfully made good decisions in their lives due to their personal relationships with Jesus Christ and ongoing involvement with our church family. Our son, Justin, is in the U.S. Coast Guard; daughter, Sarah, will graduate from nursing school in May 2019 with a BSN degree; and the youngest, Kaitlin, was the valedictorian of her high school class. She is a freshman at Kennesaw State majoring in civil engineering.

It was at Christian City that I experienced the value of a strong Christian family and accepted Christ as my savior. In turn, my husband and I make every effort to live by example for our children. When I developed breast cancer in 2013, my strong faith in God along with the love and faith of my family and friends saw me through the difficult times. Today, as a cancer survivor, I look forward to seeing God’s plan unfold in our children’s lives so they can be a blessing to others.

Thank you for letting me share my story with you. Having been raised at Christian City, I know first-hand the true blessing that the Children’s Village has been in the past, is today, and will continue to be for countless children in need. God is faithful.

My favorite scripture is Proverbs 3:5-6: Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Thanks to God, Christian City was in my path, and I am here to share this blessing with you today.

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