December 6, 2017 10:38:21 AM
Isabelle Altman - [email protected]
Hot chocolate, holiday cookies, Christmas decorations and music from Palmer Home's children's choir await attendees of the Columbus children's home's annual Christmas open house Thursday.
Home to nearly 40 children on the Columbus campus alone, Palmer Home has been part of the community since 1895, campus director Lynn Atkins said. The open house is a way to thank donors and volunteers while also inviting the city to see the campus and meet the kids who call it home.
"It's just our chance to showcase our campus," Atkins said. "... The children love to show their homes. So it's just a great opportunity for the community to get to know us."
There's plenty to be thankful for this year, as Palmer Home just placed fourth in "What a Difference a Day Makes," an online competition for nonprofits hosted by Regions Bank. The bank's website hosted profiles of nonprofits across the Southeast and Midwest on its website, where customers could read about them and vote for their favorites. While all 16 participating nonprofits will receive monetary prizes and volunteer hours, the top four -- including Palmer Home -- will each receive $1,000 and at least 50 volunteer hours from Regions associates.
"I am thrilled," Atkins said. "... I just think about all the things we can accomplish with that many volunteer hours."
Not only did the Palmer Home volunteers decorate the campus for the upcoming open house, Atkins said, they also help keep the organization running day to day. Volunteers tutor children, provide an extra set of hands to do chores, assist with the organization's greenhouses and riding program, help with grounds upkeep and generally provide more support for the children who live on campus, many of whom look forward to seeing them.
"(Palmer Home is) a family for these kids," marketing director Melissa Mowrey said. "It's important for them to have a place to be where they're safe and they're loved."
Volunteers are a key part of that, Atkins said. Regular volunteers, in particular, get to know the kids, whether by helping them with homework or playing basketball with them in the parking lot. Some of the volunteers become sponsor families for children, opening homes to kids over the holidays or taking them on weekend trips and providing them with another support system as they grow.
"They've built relationships with the children," Atkins said. "They've watched the kids grow up."
The Regions competition is also exciting because Palmer Home is the only nonprofit not located in a major city or affiliated with a nationally known organization to place, Mowrey said. The other winners included a nonprofit in Indianapolis, a Boys and Girls Club center in Huntsville, Alabama, and a soup kitchen in Birmingham, Alabama.
"It was just really exciting to see how we measured up to really well-recognized nonprofits," marketing coordinator Lura Jordan said. "I think that just shows the span of Palmer Home, the span of our donor base."
The competition has given Palmer Home more national exposure, she added -- important because not only does more exposure mean more volunteers and donations but because the more people who know about Palmer Home, the more kids the home can help.
"Our mission has no boundaries, so our state line is not a boundary," Jordan said. "... Our children don't only come from Mississippi. We take children from anywhere."
Regions just announced the competition winners Monday, and Mowrey and Jordan don't know yet when the bank's associates will start volunteering. However Palmer Home will take volunteers any time.
"We're excited," Jordan said. "... More hands to help out. It's always welcomed."
The open house starts at 5 p.m. at Palmer Home's campus at 912 11th Ave. S. To RSVP, email Jordan at [email protected]