The Connie Maxwell Children’s Home in Chesterfield, the Adams Campus, has joined with the other locations around the state in celebrating 120 years of service to children and families. The facility locally is on Zoar Road in Chesterfield.
In a Baptist Courier editorial in 1888 a call was made to start an orphanage. Three years later a site was secured for the new orphanage, now a children’s home, and it would be located in Greenwood, primarily through the generosity of Dr. J.C. Maxwell and his wife, Sarah. The Maxwell’s had lost their seven-year-old daughter, Connie, to scarlet fever in 1883. To honor her memory, the Maxwell’s gave South Carolina Baptists more than 480 acres and willed their estate to be used in starting this ministry of caring for children.
Twelve-year-old Susie Burton from Newberry County was the first child received into care on May 22, 1892. By year’s end, 25 other boys and girls had joined Susie and Superintendent J.L. Vass. During the first years of operation most of the children were orphans. The major task of yesterday was to provide food, clothing, shelter, and Christian care.
Atha Thomas Jamison became Connie Maxwell’s superintendent in 1900. Dr. Jamison saw early in his tenure that the new century brought changing needs for children. Already, Connie Maxwell was beginning to receive boys and girls who had at least one parent living but needed care because of some other family trauma. Connie Maxwell alumnus Dr. Sam Smith took over as superintendent in 1946. That same year, the name of the Connie Maxwell Orphanage was officially changed to Connie Maxwell Children’s Home. The ensuing 30 years of the home’s work under the leadership of Dr. Smith and Dr. John Murdoch saw individuals across South Carolina reaching out in many ways to the children. Many gave of themselves through such methods as Sunday School offerings, boxcars of produce, special sponsorships of children, gifts of canned goods and clothing, Christmas gifts and special work projects. Today Connie Maxwell continues to enjoy a strong volunteer program under the direction of Polly Davis. In 2011, volunteers gave more than 11,000 hours of service.
To meet the increasingly complex problems of children and their families, Connie Maxwell Children’s Home has continued to develop new programs with individualized services to support and strengthen family ties and to encourage family unity. Under the leadership of Dr. Heyward Prince, who began as president in 1977, Connie Maxwell added crisis homes in Florence and Greenwood to provide compassionate care for children in need of immediate help — abandoned or abused children, runaways, or children whose families have suddenly broken apart. A satellite campus in Greenville was established for those children needing intensive community experiences. In Summerville, a Connie Maxwell social worker was placed to provide counseling services to families in the Lowcountry. Dr. Joe Weber served a brief period as president after Dr. Prince was seriously injured and later died in an automobile accident.
The home base for Connie Maxwell’s statewide work continues to be the main campus in Greenwood where 72 children in grades one through twelve live in a family-style setting of cottages. The children attend public schools and are encouraged to participate in extra-curricular school activities. Another 8 children are in the emergency shelter in Greenwood, and a total of 34 more are at the four satellite campuses around the state.
Through Connie Maxwell’s Adventure-Based Counseling program, physical and mental challenges in an outdoor setting are used to build group communication and problem-solving skills as well as individual confidence. Many organizations, schools and businesses have used the course also.
Dr. Jimmy McAdams came to Connie Maxwell as president in the spring of 1993 and led in the opening of another satellite campus in Orangeburg. It serves as a home for boys and girls, and is known as Connie Maxwell’s Brookland Campus. Sixteen boys and girls live in two family style cottages on 140 acres of land. The Neb Cline Family Service Center was opened on the main campus for children to meet with Connie Maxwell social workers so the child and family can set goals to assist with their needs. OASIS was created on the farm at Connie Maxwell to develop confidence in children in natural surroundings. Efforts were also begun on a third crisis shelter care facility that saw its completion in 2004 in Chesterfield under the current president, Dr. Ben Davis, who took the leadership position in 2002, after 9 years as business and development vice president.
Two new programs are now being offered on the main campus in Greenwood. The Connie Maxwell Family Care Program exists to restore families with hope, comfort, and shelter while they locate the resources they need to move toward successful independent living. Relief and assistance are provided to single-parents from all walks of life so each family can focus on resolving their individual crisis and temporary instability. The second is a strong initiative to work with grandparents who are serving as “parents again.” From elementary school-age children to seniors graduating from high school, Connie Maxwell can partner with grandparents in meeting the basic physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual needs of their grandchildren. The mission is to help families and the children as they go through difficult situations in their lives.
Every two years, alumni of Connie Maxwell return to the main campus. This Biennial Reunion serves as a “homecoming” for the boys and girls of yesteryear. Between 600 and 1,000 alumni will make the journey back to a place they call home to see cottage brothers and sisters and staff who have served as mentors in their lives. This year’s gathering took place June 8, 9 and 10.
Dr. Ben Davis, President and CEO, stated, “This event renews our efforts for today’s children as we see how this special place of caring has meant so much to those who have moved on to raise families of their own and enjoy a life that Connie Maxwell helped them establish.”