PLANT CITY – Steppin’ Stone Farm donated $100,000 to the Florida United Methodist Children’s Home as the refuge for troubled teenage girls prepares to shut down for good.
Steppin’ Stone Famr Executive Director Cindy Churchill said she feels like the money was in good hands – and will continue the overall mission of helping children. She presented the check July 21 to Mark Nelson, the children’s home’s vice president of development.
“We’re feeling a lot less sad about closing because we’re helping another program that also spreads the word of Christ (to children),” she said. “We love it that we’re giving back.”
Nelson said the Methodist children’s home may use the money at a more than 300-acre campus it is opening in early August in rural North Florida.
“We are very blessed and feel so grateful that they made such a generous donation to us,” he said.
The children’s home is based in Enterprise in Volusia County. About 100 to 110 children are in its care, plus another 300 in foster programs affiliated with the facility, Nelson said.
Steppin’ Stone Farm is shutting down after four decades of turning around the lives of troubled teenage girls. The last four girls left the rural farm south of Plant City on Saturday.
The Steppin’ Stone board is donating the 86-acre farm to the Florida Baptist Children’s Home. That organization hasn’t yet announced what it will do with the rural property when it takes ownership. Staff members from the Baptist children’s home will live on site during and after the transition period so the property won’t be vacant.
Churchill said the $100,000 was left over in Steppin’ Stone’s bank account after all the bills were paid. She said she wanted to help the Methodists because she sung in the youth choir at First United Methodist Church of Plant City as a teenager and received her under graduate degree from Florida Southern College, a Lakeland school affiliated with the denomination.
Steppin’ Stone originally intended for the Florida Baptist Children’s Home to make a $100,000 donation to the Methodist’s home as a condition of receiving the farm, which includes several buildings including homes, a chapel and school. But Churchill said enough was left over in the Steppin’ Stone’s coffers to make the donation.
Churchill and the board of directors decided to close the farm earlier this year because she said fewer and fewer parents were willing to support her tough-love approach. Over the years, 900 girls ages 13 to 17 turned away from self-destructive behavior such as drug abuse through Churchill’s program that included biblical training, education and hard work on a working farm.