TUPELO – The Gardner-Simmons Home for Girls has a new director to continue the home’s transition from a group home to a maternity home.
Carla Wilemon, 35, of Tupelo, said her biggest challenge over the next year will be to bring the home back into the public eye and then drive up fundraising so the home can continue to provide its services to girls in crisis pregnancy situations through the Providence House program.
“I think it’s become something that isn’t very well-known, probably to people that have moved to Tupelo in the last three or four years,” she said. “Changing the focus (of the home) and not knowing what direction it was going to go kept it quiet for a few years, and I’m excited to get the word out that we’re here and we’re ready to help girls in our state.”
Wilemon previously served in Mooreville schools where she did support therapy and worked with young mothers. Her husband is a student pastor at Hope Church.
“At one point we talked about starting some kind of ministry to help single moms get educated and be able to take care of their kids,” she said. “That’s what the Providence House program is about, about helping girls that find themselves in a difficult situation but want to keep their kids. It gave me an opportunity to do that ministry that was already set in my heart.”
Wilemon also will manage the organization’s foster care program, something she said she hopes to strengthen and expand. She wants to see community involvement in the home increase so girls can escape their difficult situation and, “find a way to be successful in our community.”
Interim Director Shane Robbins was brought in to help transition the program and said he is glad to hand the reins to Wilemon.
“Once I fulfilled that role we felt it was time to bring in someone like Carla who had a long background in social work and will be able to convey the passion of the board into the home,” he said. “We felt in the interview process she would be able to convey that passion and lead the foster program and the Providence House and connect that to the community.”
Wilemon began her role at the home at the beginning of August. She will spend the next few months working to strengthen the home’s branding and advertise its services to crisis pregnancy centers, school counselors and others who are at the forefront of crisis-pregnancy situations.