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Palmer Home for Children - Not What You Expect an “Orphanage” to Be

Drake Bassett, Palmer Home President and CEO

Palmer Home for Children - Not What You Expect an “Orphanage” to Be

For many people, the term “orphanage” conjures up images of a Charles Dickens novel in which abandoned children live in large, dreary buildings with dormitory-style rooms, sleep in rows of bunk beds and eat oatmeal and “mush.”


This most definitely is not what you’ll see at Palmer Home for Children. With campuses located in Columbus and Hernando, Palmer Home is dedicated to providing superior residential care for children while introducing the love of God through its service to each individual child. It’s a warm, welcoming environment, full of lively children and caring adults living together as family.


“When people visit one of our campuses, they usually say this is the last thing they expected to see,” says Palmer Home President and CEO Drake Bassett. “We strive to provide a family and community for children and sibling groups in need regardless of their race, gender or background.”


A Long, Rich History


Palmer Home for Children was first established in 1895 largely through the vision and efforts of the pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Columbus. At that time, says Bassett, many areas of Mississippi were still struggling to recover from the Civil War and some parents simply couldn’t support their children.


Though more than a century has passed, Bassett says that many parents today still face some of the same challenges due to economic difficulties when it comes to supporting their children. “Many of the children we serve are coming from tough social circumstances,” he says. “We take a comprehensive approach to caring for these children that recognizes and addresses the multi-dimensional aspects of a child’s life: physical, emotional, educational and spiritual.”


Palmer Home is state licensed but privately funded via donations from churches, individuals and businesses located in almost every state. “This means we can determine our own path,” says Bassett. Annual donations to Palmer Home total about $6 million and nearly 160 children are served by the ministry each year.


Keeping Siblings Together


One way to view Palmer Home is as a privately run alternative to government-run foster care. While state foster care programs often cannot keep siblings together, Palmer Home does everything possible to accomplish this. “Many of these kids have already been through so much, which is why keeping siblings together is so important,” says Bassett.


At each of the Palmer Home campuses, up to 50 children live in one of six cottages where they share a room with one other child. “Each child has his or her own space, clothes, toys and other possessions,” says Bassett. “We try to make it as much like home for these kids as we can and to introduce them to a family of people who really cares about them and keeping them safe.”


“Our mission is two-fold: first to rescue, and then to restore kids who have been abandoned, neglected and abused,” says Bassett. “Some kids come to us from grandparents who don’t have the financial or physical means to raise them, and some come to us from struggling families that are one step away from being homeless, or might already be on the street.”


Transitioning to a Non-profit


Bassett joined Palmer Home in 2012 after working for more than 20 years as a COO and CEO in the for-profit world, most recently with Nielsen Corporation in New York City. “I wanted to use my business background and skills to have a real impact on kids,” he says. While there have been challenges in making the transition, Bassett says serving as the CEO of Palmer Home “is the most satisfying work I’ve ever done.”


There’s no question that ministry work is different from for-profit work, he adds. “Instead of talking about share prices, we talk about breaking the cycle that leads kids into these circumstances. The satisfaction I get from my job makes it pretty easy to get to work early and stay late.”


Palmer Home relies on Cadence Bank for a wide range of banking services including a business loan and line of credit, money market checking account, and business CD. “Cadence Bank has been very committed to earning our business,” says Bassett, who also serves as a Cadence Bank Advisory Board member.


In addition to providing banking services, Cadence also supports Palmer Home through financial contributions and by assisting with fundraising events. For example, during the fall, Cadence has allowed Palmer Home to use its parking lot during Mississippi State home football games. All of the parking proceeds collected benefit Palmer Home.


“Cadence Bank made it clear they wanted to work with us not only from a business perspective, but because they believe in what we’re doing,” Bassett adds. “When you’re in ministry, it’s nice to work with people who also care passionately about your mission like Cadence Bank does. That really means a lot to us.”


Palmer Home for Children has locations in both Hernando and Columbus, and is supported by the Palmer Home Thrift Stores in Starkville and Columbus. Visit for more information.


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This article is provided as a free service to you and is for general informational purposes only. Cadence Bank makes no representations or warranties as to the accuracy, completeness or timeliness of the content in the article. The article is not intended to provide legal, accounting or tax advice and should not be relied upon for such purposes.

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