For more than a century, Palmer Home for Children has provided safety, shelter and love for children in need. Now, the Columbus facility is adding a new facet to its services — a library and school for the 90 children who call the 110-acre campus their home.
School-aged students are currently divided between the city schools and local private schools, with placement contingent upon each child’s individual needs, but board members and staff have decided to expand their services to include an on-site residential education center, allowing them to choose the teaching method and curriculum that best suits students’ learning styles, marketing and communications director Katharine Hewlett said Thursday afternoon.
The number of new staff members to be hired has not yet been determined. Tiffany Ward will continue to work on campus as an educational specialist.
The school is slated to open this fall in the Frierson building, which was dedicated in 1964 as one of the original residential cottages. The grounds currently include seven cottages, two administrative buildings, a gym, swimming pool, 12 greenhouses and assorted outbuildings.
A $35,000 grant from Severstal is being used to fund the renovations and purchase computers for the students.
One of the major needs at this time is a consolidated library and new books, Hewlett said. Though the children have some books at the cottages, the staff intends to add several hundred additional books over the next few months.
A fund-raiser will be held Saturday at the Columbus Books-A-Million on Highway 45, with Palmer Home receiving proceeds from purchases made between noon and 4 p.m. The store will also hold a book drive May 19-24. Another fund raiser and book drive will be held concurrently at the Southaven store to benefit Palmer Home’s Hernando campus.
Shoppers can choose from dozens of books that have been pre-selected by Palmer Home staff and will be on display at the front of the store, Columbus store manager Cynthia Mason said Thursday. As books are purchased, they will be cleared from the shelves to avoid duplicates.
It’s a good time of year for the fund raiser, because so many people are considering large purchases for graduation and Father’s Day gifts, Mason said.
This is not the first time the local bookstore has teamed up with area agencies. A similar fund raiser and book drive was held last winter for underprivileged children, and it was even more successful than Mason had anticipated.
“We had a tremendous response,” she said. “It was amazing, the amount of stuff people donated. I don’t know if it’s the economy and that times have been hard and people know there are children out there who really need help, but hardly anybody we asked turned us down.”
They had planned to provide books for around 50 children, but by the end of the book drive, they had amassed 10 large boxes of donations — enough to give 100 children a variety of books to choose between.
Local residents were also generous following the April 27, 2011 tornado that roared through Smithville, destroying nearly everything in its path and severely damaging Smithville High School.
The roof was torn from the school library and more than 800 books were flung into yards and trees. What wasn’t sucked up by the violent, 205 mph winds was damaged beyond repair by the rain.
After a month-long book drive and an outpouring of local support, the Highway 45 store was able to send more than 500 books to the Monroe County school.
Mason rarely gets to see the fruits of her labor, but she doesn’t mind.
“I hope we have another turnout like that this time,” she said. “It was great. I didn’t get to see any of the kids it benefited, but they told us how happy it made them.”
Those who are unable to participate in the book drive this week or have used books they would like to donate to Palmer Home can make donations year-round to the Palmer Home Thrift Store at 2608 Main St.
Carmen K. Sisson is the former news editor at The Dispatch.