Out on the east side of Shelby County, Tenn., Mamie and John Rock donated this land for the purpose of building a home for children. It opened in 1950 to serve the needs of children whose families were in the midst of a crisis. Thus was the sunrise of a safe harbor in times of uncertainty for children whose families were experiencing a crisis beyond their ability to cope.
In the 1960s it became a safe harbor for my sister, brother and myself. While there our basic physical needs were met such as food, clothing and shelter. However, over the years we received so much more than that. We attended Bartlett schools. As a result we had opportunity to participate in sports and extra-curricular activities and to earn a diploma. We also had opportunity to attend college to further our education and make career choices. We attended Bartlett and Raleigh churches. Our participation in Sunday school, choir and other church-related activities nourished our sense of faith. Together these opportunities allowed us to interact and develop friendships with our community peers. We were responsible for completing daily chores that developed everyday life skills and strong work ethics. Each of these experiences in turn led many of us to discover, develop and hone our talents. In addition, these things worked together in providing the anchor that resulted in the development and shaping of our character and sense of ethics. Perhaps most importantly it gave a glimmer of hope to our dreams for the future.
I am certain that my residence in this safe harbor changed not only the route of my journey of life in such a positive way but that of many others who came to reside there. In conversations with some of them, who became siblings of commonality and circumstance, it is apparent that it changed their lives for the better as well. Although coming to reside there was a change not requested by us it became a blessing that we have come to more truly appreciate over the years since our stay there. Thanks be to God for a safe harbor in the storms of life.
I am sharing all of this because this May that land out on the east side of Shelby County, Tenn., will no longer serve the needs of children whose families are in crisis. Due to reorganization of the Tennessee Baptists Children’s Homes across the state, the Bartlett campus will be closed and the property sold. This news saddens the hearts of many of us who once called it home.
On April 14, there will be an opportunity for former residents of the home to gather together once more and recall days gone by at our home. There will be remembrances shared as siblings by circumstance and commonality. Memories of time spent at the pond fishing, taking a twirl on the merry-go-round, the gathering and baling of hay, picking berries in the strawberry patch, playing in the gym, swimming in the pool on summer days, treks to Matthews Market for treats, playing hide-and-seek, and of course baseball and softball games under the guidance of our beloved mentor, Mr. H. Lee Presley, are examples of just a few.
Although the forthcoming sunset of the Memphis Campus in Bartlett brings sorrow to our hearts the good news is that all resources in this part of Tennessee will be focused on the Tennessee Baptist Boys Ranch located in Millington, Tenn. Thus Mamie and John Rocks’ vision of a safe harbor of hope for children will see many more sunrises through the gift and vision of others who give support to the Boys Ranch. There is a monument on the Memphis Campus in tribute to Mamie and John Rock: “Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matthew 25: 40 KJV). Thanks be to God for those willing to take the first step toward making a difference in the lives of children, especially for those who are experiencing a crisis beyond their ability to cope.
Mary Bishop Bobbitt
Former Teacher/Administrator with SCS Legacy Schools