The Civil War was one of the most tragic, destructive periods in the history of the United States. In the aftermath of the war, the Presbyterian Church of Alabama answered the call of families in need by establishing a home for orphaned children. Now, more than 150 years later, the Presbyterian Home for Children (PHFC) in Talladega, Ala. has grown into a much larger ministry focused on helping children and women in crisis from across Alabama.
“What we do here is rooted in the book of Isaiah,” says Doug Marshall, CEO of the organization, “the verse about secure dwellings.” Since starting as an orphanage in 1868, PHFC has grown to include a broad spectrum of programs designed to help children and women grow in their faith in a safe, nurturing environment. The ministry includes residential care for homeless children and their female caretakers, a transitional program for young women, life skills training, and a school—among many things.
“My people will abide in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places.”Isaiah 32:18
Many of the women and children who enter the Secure Dwellings program come to the Talladega campus from abusive situations—often with nothing more than a trash bag to carry their personal belongings. An organization in Tuscaloosa regularly donates suitcases to the program. Felicia Ayers Storey, a long-term leader in the ministry, says, “They may arrive that way but we make sure they leave here with dignity when the time comes.”
Often, teenage girls suffering from extreme abuse and neglect reach the Presbyterian Home from state services like the Department of Human Resources (DHR) as the Home operates a residential therapeutic treatment program for these girls. In 1997, the ministry opened a fully accredited AdvancED school to serve children in need, most of whom were lagging far behind in their studies due to situations beyond their control. The Ascension Leadership Academy, as it is now known, is a private Christian school for grades K-12 housed in space provided by the First Presbyterian Church in Talladega. “Some of the children can be as much as two years behind,” says Linda Harris. “But we are able to help them catch up. Some of them even get back on track in one academic year or less.” Harris serves as Director of Education at Ascension.
To learn more about the services and program of PHFC visit www.phfc.org