Former Methodist Home residents share memories

By Renee Fite | news@tahlequahdailypress.com | July 18, 2017 |  Download in PDF

The United Methodist Children’s Home in Tahlequah was opened Saturday to the community and former residents for a Circle of Care Centennial Celebration and Reunion. Attendees chatted outside near the registration table.

Saturday offered a time to renew friendships and share the sisterhood and brotherhood of youth raised together at the Methodist Children’s Home as Circle of Care hosted the community Centennial Celebration and Reunion.

Many hugs were shared as visitors and former residents registered outside under the shade of a old tree, and chatted with people they just me,t as well as those they once lived with.

Memorabilia, building tours, and a free lunch gave attendees time to remember earlier years.

Mae Jean Dollison Bennett was 15 and hadn’t finished third grade when she came to the home in 1949.

Former residents of the United Children’s Methodist Home in Tahlequah had the opportunity Saturday to view old photographs. Virginia Jones Benson, left, looks for photos of people she knows with her husband Les.

“They put me through college,” said Bennett, of Tulsa, who left the MCH in 1954. “It changed my life forever. My dad couldn’t read and write and my mother worked all the time.”

When she arrived, Bennett felt like the people there were “her” people.

“They were Christians. My parents were swearing. I was ready, willing and able, and soaked up the love and appreciation and welcome I got here,” said Bennett. “There was great expectancy; they expected something from me, and that’s so important to children.”

She met her husband while attending college in Tahlequah, and Saturday, the couple looked at photos in an aging book.

“Coming back here today, when I think about how it was before I was here – they gave me every chance,” she said. “I feel thankful today, absolute joy.”

When Eugene Ward entered the room, he greeted those already looking at scrapbooks and posters. He hugged Bennett and with a big smile, he said, “This is my sister. We just met, but she’s my sister!”

Former residents of the United Children’s Methodist Home in Tahlequah had the opportunity Saturday to view old photographs.

Turning lose of his new friend, Ward, from Sparks, Okla., and a resident from 1968-’73, explained it was a brotherhood, and a sisterhood.

During the Centennial Celebration and Reunion Saturday at the Methodist Children’s Home in Tahlequah, former residents talk about the bond they have. From left are: Eugene Ward, Mae Jean Bennett and Frank Durosette.

“We shared a common experience,” said Ward. “Sometimes it was us against the townies.”

Ever smiling, Ward did recall how it saved his life.

“I would have been in a lot of trouble if I hadn’t come here. My brother did get into trouble, and that’s why we got sent here,” Ward said.

The campus today seemed Small to Ward.

“I’m happy to meet and see people I haven’t seen in 40 years,” he said.

A resident from 1966-’74, Frank Durosette was 6 or 7 when he and his brothers came to the MCH.

“I was a bad kid. There were some good times, but I cut a lot of weeks out in the field for being in trouble,” said Durosette. “We learned a lot of self-discipline, and growing up in church is all positive.”

During the Centennial Celebration and Reunion Saturday at the Methodist Children’s Home in Tahlequah, former residents talk about the bond they have. From left are: Eugene Ward, Mae Jean Bennett and Frank Durosette.

Vicki Christie Cox Wilson, of Stilwell, shared her the good memories of her youth with her husband, Eldon, during the event.

“I was here from second through ninth grade – my childhood,” said Wilson, who came with four siblings. “At that time, it was truly survival, making sure there’s food.”

One of the youngest to return for the reunion was Ariel McCormick, of Tahlequah, who lived at the residence from 2009-2011.

“How did it not help me? I was a firecracker before I came here; I didn’t trust any body before I came here,” said McCormick. “It taught me to appreciate a family and I got to move into a family and stay and trust them.”

World travelers Les and Virginia Jones Benson were returning home to Virginia from recent adventures and included the reunion as their last stop. A resident from 1942-1948, Virginia was almost 13 when she arrived with two brothers and a sister.

“We were so grateful we could all be together even if it was in different dorms,” said Benson, the eldest. “We had three meals a day. My youngest brother and sister were 3 and 4 and needed me to be with them, but I couldn’t all the time.”

A church sponsored each of the residents, she recalled.

“They brought us clothes and jeans and remembered our birthdays and Christmas,” Benson said, and she was more fortunate that most. “A couple who sponsored me came and took me to live with them.”

“It’s like coming home. There’s a smell about this place; I think it’s the water,” she said.

Being at the Home reminded Benson how difficult her home life had been and what a blessing her new life had been.

“I used to tease my brother if he would dry the dishes I’d give him a Yankee Dime [a kiss] and my mom told me I was going to hell for teasing my brother. I didn’t know Jesus then. When I came here, I met Jesus and ran down the aisle and gave my life to him the first time I attended church,” she recalled.

Members of the Tahlequah Fire Department, Cherokee Nation Marshal Service and Cherokee Nation Emergency Medical Services allowed visitors to look at the emergency equipment during the Circle of Care Centennial Celebration and Reunion at the United Methodist Home Saturday. Representing TFD were, from left: Jimmy Fort, Kevin Jackson, John Wofford, and Sam Murray.

Circle of Care is building foster homes across the state to help keep children together and not split up families, said Don Batson, chief executive officer and president.

For a dozen years, Batson has found his work very rewarding. Saturday, he was greeting visitors and sharing in their stories.

Members of the Tahlequah Fire Department, Cherokee Nation Marshal Service and Cherokee Nation Emergency Medical Services allowed visitors to look at the emergency equipment during the Circle of Care Centennial Celebration and Reunion at the United Methodist Home Saturday. Representing TFD were, from left: Jimmy Fort, Kevin Jackson, John Wofford, and Sam Murray.

“We try to provide temporary homes for families in crisis, “said Batson. “I like to tell people that our situation could change at the drop of a hat, and there but by the grace of God go I.”

Some former residents serve on the Circle of Care board because it made a difference in their lives, and they come back to make a difference in the lives of current residents, according to Batson.

“This Centennial Celebration is our opportunity to thank the community of Tahlequah, and so many Oklahomans across the state for faithfully supporting the mission all these years.” he said. “We want to honor those who came before us, and celebrate the difference still being made on these grounds in the lives of children today.”

Circle of Care’s mission is to provide Christian help, healing, and hope to children and families in crisis to ensure a safe, healthy, and spiritual future.

The Methodist Children’s Home in Tahlequah originated in 1917 as the Methodist Orphanage in Britton, now part of Oklahoma City. When the early orphanage was condemned by the fire marshal in 1942, 157 children were loaded onto buses and moved to the current site in Tahlequah. For more than a century children have been nurtured, protected and served by the Methodist Children’s Home.

No longer an orphanage, the “Home” continues to serve Oklahoma’s children through campus-based foster care and Preparation for Adult Living program for youth ages 16-24.

Each Campus Christian Home is a cottage with foster parents who live there full-time and have been certified by the Department of Human Services. The Preparation for Adult Living program empowers young adults with skills necessary for a successful transition from supportive care to independence as adults, including completion of post-secondary education.


Accessed July 24, 2017 Source: http://www.tahlequahdailypress.com/news/former-methodist-home-residents-share-memories/article_91d1ed43-b727-5076-a7d3-583d782bbcd1.html