Margie Christopher, the only Executive Director the Children's Homes of Cleveland County has ever had, has announced her retirement. Christopher plans to retire sometime after the completion of CHCC's new facility, currently under construction.
A Cleveland County native, Christopher began working with the Children's Homes in December of 1987, before the "Children's Homes" even existed. At that time, she worked with one houseparent operating an Emergency Shelter, first opened in 1969. She played an integral part in the construction of the James Home in 1989 and Aaron's House in 1990. In 1991, James Home and Aaron House merged to form Children's Homes of Cleveland County with Christopher as its Executive Director.
In the late 1990s, Christopher helped CHCC diversify by expanding services beyond residential with the addition of Social Services to Families and Supervised Visitation. The agency has continued to grow by adding more services for the benefit of children. In 2005, adoption services were added and outpatient therapy was added in 2007.
In 2003, the agency sought accreditation by the Council on Accreditation. Accreditation is proof of quality and CHCC was the smallest agency in the country to be accredited at that time.
A dream of Christopher's for many years has been the addition of an Independent Living Program, which will include transitional living apartments for youth that are aging out of the foster care system. The CHCC Board approved the concept and embarked on a capital campaign in 2016. The facility, which includes CHCC offices, is expected to be complete in November of this year.
Kathy Wilson, who has served more than 20 years on the CHCC Board and completed three terms as Board President cannot say enough about Christopher's contribution. She says, "Margie's compassion for children, her insistence on excellence, and her vision for what is possible has changed Children's Homes from a struggling foster care home to a multi-dimensional, nationally-recognized model of caring for children. It is a unique privilege to be associated with her in this work."
Reflecting on her time at CHCC, Christopher says, "In 1987 I was hired to do a job which quickly became my passion. I am very grateful for a supportive board of directors, a generous community, and dedicated co-workers; however, my real inspiration comes from the resiliency of the young people that we serve every day. They have suffered in ways we will never understand and I believe they deserve every opportunity we can provide for them to be successful."
Christopher is involved in the national childcare community of as well as the local community. She is a peer reviewer for the Council on Accreditation, a member of Shelby Rotary Club, Child Protection Team, Child Fatality Team, Juvenile Crime Prevention Council, Alliance for Health, and Double Shoals Baptist Church, and is a Paul Harris Fellow. She is married to Stephen, and has one grown daughter, Elizabeth Sibley.
CHCC, now with 24 employees, is currently searching for Christopher's replacement.
According to Justin Merritt, current Board Chair and Co-Chair of the CHCC Right of Passage capital campaign, "Margie Christopher has done a remarkable job building CHCC into a highly respected, financially stable, quality agency. While she cannot be replaced, she will be leaving CHCC in excellent shape for the next Executive Director. I feel truly privileged to have had the opportunity to serve this agency with Margie and wish her all the best in her retirement."
Children's Homes for Cleveland County, Inc. is an independent, not for profit agency serving children and families for more than 25 years that are in crisis due to abuse and neglect. CHCC's mission is to provide services to children and families in which they have the opportunity to come together to learn, to grow and to develop in a safe, stable environment - because we care. An array of supportive services have been developed including supervised visitation, social services to families, limited adoption services, outpatient mental health services, parenting education services, and community education and awareness.
Submitted by Shannon Kennedy