Sponsoring Joy

September 21, 2016

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For Lynne Mendrop and her family, the hardest part of being a Palmer Home sponsor family is not getting to see the children they sponsor often enough.

“I hate we don’t live closer,” Lynne said, “I wish we could spend more time with them.”

She believes people often misunderstand what the sponsorship program is. It’s not a financial contribution but a contribution of love. It only takes a few minutes of talking with Lynne to understand just how much she loves the children her family sponsors.

As a child, Lynne’s father served as interim pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Columbus for about a year. Her family would make the three hour drive every weekend from Jackson, where Lynne’s father was in seminary. Often they would stay on the Palmer Home campus in Columbus with Lynne in the girls’ cottage and her father and brother in the boys’ cottage.

Fast forward 30 years, and Lynne and her family found themselves in Columbus for a softball tournament. They decided to revisit Palmer Home and tour the grounds so Lynne could share the memories from her childhood with her own children. Just a year later, their daughter Lauren began school at Mississippi State and expressed a desire to tutor children at Palmer Home.14408272_1272203142790504_1305766537_o

It was during one of her tutoring sessions that Lauren first met Alex. As she worked with him, she also became close friends with his Caregivers, Mandy and David, and met his sisters, Autumn and Lexi.

The next step seemed clear for the family.  “My husband and I heard about the sponsorship program and said ‘Yes! This is what we want to do’,” said Lynne.

The process of becoming a sponsor begins much like the process of becoming a foster parent. Sponsors must go through a home study, and all members of the family are interviewed and fingerprinted. This helps provide assurance of safety and security for the children of Palmer Home.  The Mendrops completed the process in December and brought Alex, Autumn, and Lexi to their home for the first time at New Years.

As sponsors, the Mendrops are allowed to set their own schedule for visiting with the children, as long as it doesn’t interfere with other activities or school work. During the school year, the children’s schedule is sometimes busier, making it a bit harder to find time for a long-distance visit.  When the Mendrops’ daughters were in school at Mississippi State, the girls saw their sponsor children several times a week. Logistics are a little more difficult now that the girls have moved, but the bond hasn’t weakened.

“Just talking about them makes me miss them!,” Lynne said. “I miss them so much. They are the most beautiful, amazing children.”

14393167_1272203076123844_1722729223_oThe family keeps in touch through the Palmer Home Caregivers, and this summer they enrolled Alex in a summer camp in the Jackson area. The camp didn’t give out awards, but they created a recognition just for Alex because of his willingness to do whatever they asked of him. “I can’t say enough about him,” Lynne said proudly.
One caution from Lynne about the sponsorship program is to keep in mind that these children are not available for adoption.  The role of a Palmer Home sponsors is to love the children they sponsor, show them what a whole, functioning family can look like, and show interest in their lives. The only time sponsors are financially responsible for the children is when the children are in their care, such as providing meals or transportation.

“Most people don’t understand the need or opportunity [for sponsoring],” said Lynne. “It’s a love commitment. You think you want to be a blessing to these kids, but they are the blessing to you. More than anything they need someone in their corner, another person to show them love.”

If you are interested in becoming a sponsor for a child or sibling group at Palmer Home, please contact Lynn Atkins at latkins@palmerhome.org. We would love for every child on our campuses to know the welcoming love of a sponsor family.