St. Giles is grateful for the faithful work of our mission partner, Thornwell Home for Children. In addition to our annual Thornwell Sunday in January and housing office space for Thornwell’s Building Families program, Dr. Mike Payne and Mrs. Tea Madden (members of St. Giles) serve on Thornwell’s board of directors. Included below is Mike’s report from the July 2018 board meeting. Read on to learn more about the ministries of Thornwell and how we might support them in Service to the World.
On July 19-20, Tea Madden and I were privileged to attend the summer Board of Trustees Meeting at Thornwell. I will attempt to summarize the new developments there with the following information. As usual, if questions arise, or if you know of anyone who would like to have a tour of the Thornwell campus and its programs, do not hesitate to contact either one of us.
Much of the new information came from the Education Committee, chaired by Tea. The application for the Charter School was approved by our sponsor, the Charter Institute of Erskine. If all goes well, Thornwell will open K-5th grade in August 2019. This will be a wonderful opportunity to offer a personalized learning experience and innovative new programs like the Read Right reading program to the Thornwell children, along with children from the surrounding area. There has been great interest in the Laurens County community for students as well as faculty. Expansion to K-12 will occur in stages over the next few years. Because of needed building renovations to the Dining Hall, the church education wing, the gymnasium, and the Yates Building, Thornwell will need to spend 5 million dollars in order to be ready for students next fall. The Mission Advancement Committee is working hard to address this with our presbyteries and with the public, and hopefully all of you will be contacted at some point to help with this wonderful ministry.
Due to some instances of abuse in the statewide Early Head Start programs (not at Thornwell), the SC First Steps lost its federal grant for the next year. The Thornwell Board agreed to fully fund this next year with $275,000 of Thornwell money. Hopefully, additional funding can be found to supplement this and we hope that the grant can be renewed next year.
The Facilities and Property Committee reported that the renovations to Brophy Cottage have been completed, and the boys from Ferguson Cottage will be moving there soon to update that. The Marshall Activities Center and the Laundry renovations have both been completed, and provide a needed space for communal meals, meeting space, and outside functions. Both look wonderful, and were well done to update these areas while keeping a "retro" look from the 1920's in the old Laundry building. A committee is being formed in collaboration with Clemson and a professor from Presbyterian College to evaluate future uses of the farm. We hope to bring agro-tourism to Thornwell, perhaps somewhat similar to Denver Downs in Anderson County. Hopefully, a farm manager can be hired by the end of the year.
Due to the lawsuit limiting DSS placed young children in group homes, the ages of Thornwell students is shifting upward. There are now more teens than before, but we are still caring for approximately 70 children in our residential program. The young mother's home opened this last year, and there are now 4 teen moms with children, and one more child on the way. There were 3 high school graduates this spring, and all three have entered the transitional living program at Thornwell.
There are now 18 locations for family teachers in the Building Families program throughout SC, Ga, and Fla. So far in 2018, Building Families has reached 1,152 individuals!
There was an educational session to inform the Board about the Family First Prevention Services Act, which was passed by Congress in Feb. 2018. This is an effort to put federal dollars into preventive services for families and to decrease funding for congregate care in most instances. Fortunately, due to forward thinking by Elliot Smith and the staff at Thornwell over the last few years, we are confident that Thornwell is well positioned to offer a wide array of both preventive and therapeutic services in order to qualify for continued federal funding.
As you can see, Thornwell is alive and well, making a difference in the lives of children and families throughout the Southeast. Many opportunities exist for your help with this exciting, wonderful ministry. Many challenges remain with so many new programs, but the staff at Thornwell is working hard to ensure a better future for SC.