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They came bearing gifts of two-ply, quilted and extra-absorbent.
Paper products arrived by the bag and bundle slung over the shoulders, under the arms and even on top of the head.
It took less than an hour July 13 to fill two transport trailers with double rolls, mega rolls and longer-lasting rolls in the annual Carolina Mudcats Paper and Cleaning Products Drive to benefit the Free Will Baptist Children’s Home in Middlesex.
“This is our 15th year with the Carolina Mudcats,” said development associate Carrie Brown, who helps organize the event. “We do a paper and cleaning products drive to get people to bring items to the game. It helps stock our cottages essentially for the year with cleaning products, cleaning products, paper goods, toilet paper, paper towels, laundry detergent, that sort of thing.”
Campus needs include floor cleaner, furniture polish, bathroom cleaner, bleach, laundry detergent, dryer sheets, dishwasher detergent, dishwashing liquid, food storage bags, trash bags, brooms dustpans, plastic utensils, paper plates and cups.
And the people, members of other Free Will Baptist congregations around eastern North Carolina and elsewhere, fill that need.
“We brought some paper plates and paper towels,” said Ashley Thomas, of the Winterville Free Will Baptist Church, whose family has participated in the drive for the last five years.
“I think it’s really important that kids get what they need and this home provides that,” Thomas said.
Longttime Free Will Baptist member Don Batchelor, of Middlesex, helped receive the products by the open doors of the trailer parked at the N.C. 39 gate at Five-County Stadium in Zebulon before the baseball game.
Batchelor said supporters of the children’s home were widespread.
“They have their heart in it and the care for children and they love children,” Batchelor said. “I have been part of it for the past 15 year and it has been a success from day one. It’s worth the effort just to see the smiles on the people’s faces and being so free-hearted and sharing with people that don’t have anything.”
Jeff Daughtry, of La Grange, who works at the children’s home as a gift planner, said the paper drive is widely publicized and supported by the Free Will Baptist churches in the region.
“All of our churches love and support our children’s home,” Daughtry said. “It’s a real need and we believe in helping the children. This is all for the children.”
According to Brown, the home, in its 98th year, is a residential foster care home for children who have been removed from their homes due to abuse, abandonment or neglect.
“We have a residential campus program that has approximately 30 teens in it, middle- and high-schoolers,” Brown said. “We have a family foster care program. We license foster parents and place children in foster homes. We have about 25 and those children are all ages, newborn to 18.”
The Free Will Baptist denomination founded the home in 1920. At that time it was an orphanage.
“There were a lot of sicknesses and illnesses and there was a need for a home for orphans,” Brown said. “Over the years it has changed into a children’s home with children being placed for different reasons, less parental death and more family dysfunction.”
The home has a staff of about 50 including cottage parents and office staff. It is on about 30 acres of land outside Middlesex with three cottages of girls and two cottages of boys.
Daughtry said the home is getting ready to begin a campaign to replace two cottages that were built in the early 1950s.
“They have been in use for over 60 years and they have seen their better days,” Daughtry said.
The goal is to have one of them completed — or at least have ground broken — by the 100th anniversary.
“We will definitely have enough money raised to start the process,” Daughtry said.
Brown called the Carolina Mudcats organization’s support “fantastic.”
“We usually have about 1,500 that pre-buy their tickets specifically for that event,” Brown said.
The donations that come in on that one day usually take care of the home’s needs through the entire year.
For more information about the Free Will Baptist Children’s Home, visit www.fwbchildrenshome.org or call 252-235-2161.
Located 19 miles west of Wilson on U.S. 264 Alternate at N.C. 231
Population is 850
Mayor is Lu Harvey Lewis
Incorporated in 1908