Oklahoma Baptist Homes for Children

 
James Browning

stories from the book
by James V. Browning


Care and Concern

Dennis Atkinson


My first recollection of the Baptist Children’s Home began at the age of eight when a lady by the name of Jean Hack came to visit me and my family. I don’t remember much about what Mrs. Hack said that particular day, but I remember wondering why she was there. I know she talked about the Children’s Home, and that I might be going to live there soon. I knew that my mother was very sick, and that my grandmother was getting too old to care for me, but I still couldn’t understand why I would have to leave them.

Actually, my experiences with the Children’s Home family began much earlier when as a baby, I was taken into the Browning household for six months. I spent part of my first Christmas with Mr. Browning and his family. I still have the pictures of my time spent with them that first holiday season.

When I arrived on the Children’s Home campus in January of 1975, I came to realize that my life was forever changed. Though I was on the campus with so many other children, I was lonely and scared. I had been away from home before when I lived at the J. D. McCarty Center for crippled children, but I felt this time would be very different.

But soon there would be happier times. I became friends with many of the other kids in my cottage. We played games, swam at the pool, and when one kid’s family brought a bag of treats, we all got to share. This seemed like a good idea until it was my time to share. But, we were like a family, and sharing became a part of life in the Home.

I can remember, Ms. Bishop, our housemother, who would have us sit down for daily devotionals at night. We would sing, and then she would share the Bible with us before bed. When it was time for bed, though, she meant business. I remember one night when we just couldn’t keep quiet and go to sleep. We were marched in to the front room and learned a lesson we would not soon forget.

About a year or so after arriving on campus, I was moved to an all-boys cottage. I don’t really remember much about my time spent there, but it was about this time when I got to know some of the social workers and other people who worked there. Phyllis Gentry helped me with my speech therapy, and would later become my foster mother. David Peck was our bus driver for school during the week and church on Sunday. It was through Mr. Peck that I came to know Jesus as my Savior. Mr. Peck would often take us to the Firefighters Museum or to Spring Lake amusement park after school. There were other people who had an influence in my life, but their names escape me.

I finally moved in with Mr. & Mrs. Mazola. Mr. Mazola ran the recreational center where I spent much of my time honing my skills in the pool. While at the cottage, the Mazolas assigned us various chores each day to teach us the value of hard work. At the time, however, I didn’t appreciate the value of it. He also taught us that we should have respect for our roommates and for him. In case we ever forgot this important lesson, we would have a meeting with him and his Board of Education! I don’t remember forgetting very many lessons.

After two and a half years at the Children’s Home, I went to live with Phyllis Gentry, a social worker at the Home, and her husband, Don. I spent the next year and a half with them. They really made me feel like a part of their family, if only for a little while.

Eventually, I met the Atkinsons, and was adopted into their family. I moved to Shawnee, where I graduated from high school. I went on to junior college and later OBU where I graduated cum laude with a degree in business. I worked for a local bank for several years, and later went to work in a manufacturing plant. Maybe it was from my time spent at the Children’s Home, or maybe it was God leading me in a new direction. I felt I wanted to work in the social services field, where I could be of service to others.

Today, I am a social work assistant with the Department of Human Services in Pottawattomie County. I work with aged, blind and disabled clients and their families with the hope that I can help make their lives better.

I still see some of the people I knew from the Children’s Home from time to time. I think my life is better for having known them.

Thank you, Oklahoma Baptists, for providing the care and help I needed at different times in my life.

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