Florida Baptist Children’s Homes is celebrating its ability to serve more children and families in new ways with the dedication of the Joe K. Blanton Campus and Harold Clark Simmons Compassion Center in Lakeland on July 25.
A 6 p.m. dinner and program is invitation only and community leaders such as Polk County Superintendent of Schools Jacqueline Byrd and Polk County Commissioners Melony Bell and John Hall are expected to attend.
The event will take place at 1015 Sikes Blvd. in Lakeland in the Harold Clark Simmons Compassion Center, a 16,000-square foot warehouse that will be a hub of intervention services, tangible goods and ministries that aims to provide support for children and families in need and help put people on paths to self-sufficiency.
“This building is going to exponentially expand our ability to feed children and love our neighbors, here and around the state, through compassion and action,” said Dr. Jerry Haag, President of Florida Baptist Children’s Homes, The Porch Light and Orphan’s Heart. “Our goal is to meet the needs of children within their families, keeping the family unit together and helping them find a path to self-sufficiency.”
The construction of the building was spurred on by a $1 million gift from the family of the late Harold Clark Simmons, a philanthropic businessman whose family has long had an affinity for Florida Baptist Children’s Homes.
The Compassion Center will include a clothing boutique and food warehouse, and it will be home to on-site resources such as financial literacy, counseling, life skills workshops, case management assistance for families seeking reunification with their families and more.
Feeding America reported that in 2014 there were 3.2 million people in Florida and more than 100,000 in Polk County who were considered “food insecure”, meaning they had lack of access, at times, to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members and limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate foods.
The Compassion Center will require nearly 30 volunteers per day to operate and the staff continues to seek churches, organizations, groups and individuals who will help meet the needs of others in the community.
The evening will also honor the legacy of Joe K. Blanton, whose family established an endowment fund in his name earlier this year to reflect his love for children.
Mr. Blanton was president of Publix from 1974-84 and he served as a board member for Florida Baptist Children’s Homes from 1971-77.
In making the gift in memory of her parents, Joe and Alberta Blanton, Ann Edwards and the family are creating a legacy that will meaningfully impact the spiritual, physical and emotional health of children.
The Lakeland campus is now named the Joe K. Blanton Campus, as shown on a brand new sign at the front of the property.
In 2015 more than 155,000 services were provided to children and individuals in Florida and around the world through Florida Baptist Children’s Homes, Orphan’s Heart and The Porch Light.