Part of Nazareth Fun Fest’s mission: Share the children’s home’s mission with the community
ROCKWELL — Out and about at the 107th annual Nazareth Children’s Home Fun Fest on Saturday, the scene could have been one found at festivals throughout the South.
Well before lunchtime, patrons were already lining up for barbecue, burgers and lemonade.
Over at the silent auction tent, some furious bidding was going on.
Alli Tuck, age 9, had just upped her bid on a gift basket to $30.
It was the “Godly Woman” gift basket, with a variety of Christian items inside.
“I need a new King James version Bible!” Alli said.
Nearby, her friend Lillie Wieder, also 9, and Lillie’s mom Angela were looking at other baskets.
Angela said they attend Nazareth Community Church, just across from the children’s home.
“We really like the music and the food,” Angela said. “I like the cars myself.”
Across the road, organizers estimated about 200 cars had been brought out — more than the 172 that had registered in advance.
The burgers and lemonade, the classic cars on display, the music and dancing — all of them typical summer fun.
Only here, it’s fun with a mission behind it.
In addition to the homecoming for alumni — those who spent part, or all, of their childhood at Nazareth Children’s Home — the event is a fundraiser to help cover costs that remain after state and other funds have been spent.
Nickalaus Goodman, director of business affairs for Nazareth Children’s Home, said there wasn’t a particular dollar figure in mind for this year’s event.
There’s also another aspect that might go unnoticed.
Here, more than on any other day of the year, the children’s home is visible to those who live near and far away.
People walk the grounds and meet residents, staff and volunteers.
Staff say the exposure that results from the Fun Fest might help correct misconceptions about the children at Nazareth.
“We definitely are not a traditional orphanage,” Goodman said.
Today, he said, Nazareth Children’s Home serves children in Department of Social Services custody, the majority of them middle-school and high-school aged.
Goodman said the home provides counseling and skills training. Many of the children who reach age 18 sign agreements and continue to receive services until age 21, so long as they remain in school.
Sue Ritchie Misenheimer, herself an alumna of Nazareth Children’s Home, was one of those welcoming other former residents back.
In the years she lived there, from 1946 to 1952, she and brother Jim Ritchie came to view their fellow residents “like family,” Misenheimer said.
“Those kids were just like our brothers and sisters,” Misenheimer said.
Today’s residents are often older, and the purpose of the programs is different.
“The purpose now is to get the kids back with their families,” Misenheimer said — a family member, if not a parent, whenever possible.
“That’s the ultimate goal,” Goodman concurred.
Development Director Josh Regan said that the year’s fundraising was off to a strong start, though much would depend on the final tally from the day’s vendor sales.
“Our vendors give some or all of what they make” to help support the programs, Regan said.
Donna Cagler, director of residential services, said it’s important not only for the public to see Nazareth Children’s Home, but for the children to see the community.
Although residents come from several counties besides Rowan, Cagler said, “once they come here, they’re going to be in the community.”
Oftentimes, she said, Nazareth Children’s Home residents stay in Salisbury or Rowan County once they age out of the services provided.
Part of the funds raised Saturday will support services designed to help prepare those young people for their future careers.
That’s good news for those who enjoyed Saturday’s fun.
Angela Wieder said Nazareth Community Church, a separate entity from the children’s home, support residents whenever possible.
She said that, although she grew up near Rockwell, she didn’t really learn a lot about Nazareth Children’s Home until they started attending the church.
“It’s nice to see all the kids and to be able to interact with them,” Wieder said. “You can see the impact you’re having on them and their future.”
Fun Fest Winner
2013 Honda Civic: Golda Harrington/Salisbury
Visio 50-inch TV: Roana Bost/Salisbury
Sony PlayStation 3 500GB: Karen Silvers/Faith
Four-burner backyard gas grill: Melissa Love/Charlotte
John Deere ride-on tractor and trailer: Tony McGalliard/China Grove
$200 Nazareth Outlet Store gift certificate: Ann Walters, Laurel Hill
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