CATEGORY: Monroe County
BOYS HOME OPEN IN AMORY
By Eileen Bailey
AMORY - Watching the boys as they led visitors on tours of the new Amory boys home, Judge Bill Fowlkes said he can already see a difference in the teens' attitudes.
Fowlkes, a youth court referee, said the home helps boys who are in trouble. Before the home opened, Fowlkes' choices were limited on where he could send boys before he had to send them to training school at Columbia.
This home gives him - and the boys - another option.
"This group home could solve a lot of problems," said Fowlkes, who has more than 20 years experience working with teens. Parents will also benefit from the program, he said.
Fowlkes has sent several boys to the home already and said he "could fill another one."
The home, which celebrated its open house Friday, is the second in the state for the United Methodist Ministry with Children and Families. There is a boys home in Natchez and another under construction on the Gulf Coast. The organization also has a girls home in Columbus.
For two years, the home has been in the works. It is supported not only the by the Jackson-based ministry but also by the city of Amory, Monroe County, the state Legislature and various local organizations.
Boys began moving into the home in July, and, currently, there are five residents, though it can hold up to eight.
"You wouldn't believe what two week have done to some of them," Fowlkes said. "This is a solution. It is the solution to the child and the family."
More than 50 visitors at the open house got a firsthand look at the facility. There are four bedrooms and two bathrooms for the boys. Two rooms have been set aside for the teaching parents, Pam and Patrick Fields. There is a kitchen, living room and large dining room.
Pam Fields said there are a variety of activities for the boys each day. "We plan to expose them to things they have not had the opportunity to do before," she said.
The boys, who are ages 12 to 17 and stay at the home up to 18 months, take part in activities that promote living skills, social skills, problem-solving skills and various other skills needed to develop into productive, independent adults.
By improving these skills, Fields hopes the boys can do better in school and move into a less restrictive environment.
The boys in the 4,800-square foot home, which cost about $300,000 to build, are referred by the Department of Human Services. They have been identified as pre-delinquent, delinquent, educable retarded, dependent-neglected or emotionally disturbed.
One of the home's goals is to serve as many local teens as possible, said Ed Theiss, president and CEO of the United Methodist Ministry with Children and Families.
Theiss said two boys from the area were at a home in Natchez but moved back to Northeast Mississippi when the Amory home opened. By having the boys closer to home, the entire family can receive help, he said.
Amory Mayor Thomas Griffith said this is the second boys home on the site. The first burned, but local residents recognized the need, and an effort began to get a second home built. A men's group from St. Andrew's United Methodist Church got the ball rolling on the project that would eventually tie city, county, state and private organizations together in fund raising.
"God works in all of our lives," Griffith said. "This project and the way it started had to be a result of his work."