Story by Elisabeth Altamirano-Smith
The sound of happy feet and laughter fills the home and campus at Raleigh’s Place. Surrounded by nature, everyone that visits can feel the peace that only a camp experience can give. Raleigh’s Place is a Christ-centered ministry that impacts the lives of children living in foster care and their families. The ministry provides foster care and a free summer camp, clothing and education for children in need within Chilton County and surrounding counties. Every summer, children pour into the rural campgrounds, and the campus comes alive. The summer camp had 165 foster children in 2019 and expects the growth to continue in coming years. Despite the high attendance, each counselor has only four children, so they are able to give each child the attention and care they need.
“It is most important to us that every child hears the Gospel during their stay and how much God loves them,” co-founder Sharon King said. “They experience chapel devotion and have godly counselors while they are here. Our second hope for them is that they have the time of their life! We have an entire summer of activities: archery, swimming, Ga-Ga Ball, arts and crafts. We want them to enjoy being a kid.”
Raleigh’s Place also provides other resources for foster children such as a free clothing store. Children are able to enter the store and select clothes, books, toys and toiletries as needed year round. “Throughout the year if DHR (Department of Human Resources) has a child in need our closet is always open to them,” said King.
Despite the magnitude of resources given to the community, Raleigh’s Place has big plans for the coming months to make the campground even greater.
The campground leadership hopes to add a lake before summer 2020. Currently, a huge crater sits in front of the main house. The campus staff and volunteers have been praying for rain since last autumn.
“We want the children to be able to fish and swim in a lake while they are here at camp,” said Mike King.
The giant hole that will eventually become the lake has a beautiful and wide pier built and tree stumps in one area.
“The tree stumps will provide shelter to Brim that are hiding from Bass,” Mike said. “We have a boat and canoes that the children can use. We would like to add kayaks and paddleboards.”
The children will have to pass a swim test for safety. Those that do not pass the swim test will be vested with life-jackets. The ministry also has plans to add a greenhouse to the property.
The ministry has planned several fun events for the spring. The third annual Father/Daughter Dance will be February 15, 5-8 p.m. at Raleigh’s Place. The dance is open to all fathers and daughters that would like to attend.
“Girls are welcome to bring their grandfather or mentor to dance with. It doesn’t have to be their father. Last year, we had a gentleman bring his three teenage daughters and danced with all of them,” said Kyla King.
While the dance is a fundraiser, Raleigh’s Place hosts the event to say “thank you for caring” to the men that are choosing to be role models. Cost for the dance is $25 a couple, and $10 for each additional child. The evening will include dinner, games and dancing.
Raleigh’s Place is currently searching for property within Clanton city limits that would be a second-hand store. The 501c(3) organization has multiple storage buildings full of donations that are ready to be transported to a vendor site.
“We have the merchandise. We just need a place in town to sell it,” said Sharon.“The ministry has mainly been supported by the generosity of volunteers for years. Having a store would give Raleigh’s Place financial security for the future.”