DeKalb County's United Methodist Children's Home, which was founded to help orphans of The Civil War, is considering a sale of its 77-acre campus near Decatur.
The proposal is stirring outrage among supporters of the home and some residents who fear the potential of a large subdivision on the land.
John Cerniglia, vice president of income development at the South Columbia Drive nonprofit, said the board is listening to the concerns. He stressed in an interview Wednesday that the center, which nowadays houses young adults transitioning from foster care and families, has made no decision yet.
“We’re hearing from some folks and we honor and respect them,” he told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “We’re 145 years in ministry. Over that length of time we have enjoyed terrific partnerships and relationships.”
The board is expected to vote this month on what to do. If it does elect to sell the whole lot, the charity would intend to expand its efforts for children and families elsewhere in Georgia, instead of the sprawling campus, Cerniglia said.
Debora Burger, a former resident and employee of the Decatur-area relic, has been getting the word out about the plans. She said she learned at an “alumni” meeting recently that more than 600 homes could be built on the land.
“(I’m) very, very shocked and saddened about the whole thing,” she said. “It’s a historic property.”
She’s been inundated with people asking her how they can help strike down the potential sale.
Burger is planning a 7 p.m. informational meeting at the Avondale Estates Fire Station, located at 24 N. Clarendon Ave.
Cerniglia wasn’t immediately able Wednesday afternoon to give the date of the vote. He said the meeting won’t be open to the public, that the board has already shared details with “stakeholders.”
He said the board will decide whether to sell all the land, a portion of it, or decline to sell. The board could also vote to postpone a decision.
Changes in the way Georgia takes care of children in state custody may dictate a change in the way the home operates, Cerniglia explained. The state is increasingly favoring placing children with foster families instead of facilities that are set up more like orphanages.
United Methodist already has foster families in 40 counties from Macon to the Tennessee border. Cerniglia suggested that the board is looking for ways to better serve children and families across the state.
About 70 people, including young adults and families with children, live on the property off Katie Kerr Road today.
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