Palmetto Place Children's Shelter

A scrapbook of our work, our thoughts, and our kids

Happy Mother’s Day

I happened to be in the kitchen a few days ago when one of our house parents was welcoming a 4-year-old home from school.

“How was your day?”


She was preparing his snack, and he was busily sweeping some imaginary pile of crumbs from the kitchen floor. This particular child loves to sweep the floor, loves being praised for being helpful.

“Did you kiss your brain yet?” The house parent asked him.

I looked to the child, at this, since I’d never heard anyone in the house use that phrase, but she said it so naturally that I could tell this was a ritual between the two of them, and I wanted to see what his response would be. He kissed the palm of his hand with the enthusiasm that only 4-year-olds can muster, but then seemed to forget the rest of what he was expected to do. The house parent pointed to her own forehead and prompted him—“Where’s your brain? Kiss your brain.” He slapped his palm to his scalp, made a loud mmmmmwah! kissing noise, and gave the house parent a huge grin. “That’s right!” she said. “You need to kiss your brain to say thank you. That’s how you remember that you’re a smart boy.”

“Yep! I’m a smart boy!”


These are the kinds of moments I remember when I reflect on Mother’s Day this year. I’m grateful for such moments of kindness that pass between our staff and our residents, for their ability to wade patiently through emotional and physical hurts, to recreate family dinners and afternoons at the park in otherwise unusual circumstances. What small moments are you remembering today?

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The Teen’s Big Bus Adventure

The Teen’s Big Bus Adventure

So we’re going on a bus ride! The city bus, that is.

Learning to ride the bus and knowing about banks and bank accounts are part of our Teen Life Skills program here at Palmetto Place Children’s Shelter. Tomorrow, April 4, we’re taking on this challenge. It’s just as much of an adventure for the adults as it is for the teens.

Kat Heavner, our grad intern with the USC College of Social Work, is the mastermind behind the trip. She spent a significant amount of time mapping out our route. It’s not easy to just jump on a bus in Columbia and head to Five Points. You have to read more than one map to see the routes; you have to understand bus fares; you have to know how far you’ll have to walk to the bus stop and how far the bus lets you off from your destination.

Here’s the plan –


We’ll be leaving Palmetto Place with 7 teenagers at 7:30 in the morning. We’ll walk to the bus stop IN THE RAIN and ride the bus to the station downtown, wait about 40 minutes for our transfer–IN THE RAIN–then pick up that bus to Five Points. Well, not exactly Five Points, but as close to Five Points as we can get–and we’ll walk to BB&T… IN THE RAIN.

Our friends at BB&T, Katy Bair and Allison Rapp, will give the teens a tour of the bank and show them how to open a bank account. A couple of teens will actually be able to open accounts while we’re there. Having a bank account is a huge step toward independent living!

Then we’ll walk over to Groucho’s for lunch. Bruce Miller is a wonderful friend to Palmetto Place and brings food to us several times a week. We’re excited to introduce him to the teens.

And, finally, we will head back to Palmetto Place, brains and stomachs full! I suspect we might need naps and some alone time.

It’s going to be quite an adventure and learning experience for the teens – and for Kat and myself. Join us on Twitter if you’d like! We will be posting our progress, observations, and comments from the teens along the way. We’d love to have you join in that conversation with us @palmettoplckids.

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The Art of Crumbs

This post is written by a wonderful volunteer, Ms. Devon, who comes on Sundays and does art projects with our kids. We’re so happy she shared this story with us.

Little Mister CJ is becoming quite enamored with art and stayed longer in Sunday’s art class than anyone, this go-round. For his age (4), he’s quite talented and uses a brush very well, slapping on coat after coat of paints on his jar project. CJ won my heart right off the bat, as a new arrival, and we’ve had many conversations that had nothing to do with art but everything to do with food. Such a dialogue—a quite lengthy one—happened as I was leaving one day and saw CJ sitting at the table in full study of  a spread of red-velvet cake crumbs, food items I sensed he might have been snacking on. Until I got there. He saw me see him, and inquired what these tiny red things were.

Valentine's cupcake 2012

I said, “Well, I think they’re crumbs.”

Wistfully, he replied, “Crumbs? They look good.”

I suppressed laughter and said, “They might be good, but they might be someone else’s.”

Smarter than one might give him credit for, CJ thought about this for a bit, then said, “I want to eat them.”

Oh, I was grinning now, “Maybe so, but it might be a better idea to ask one of the house parents if you can have a snack.”

“A snack?” Everything for CJ is repeated questions, but if you don’t think that’s how it sinks in for him, it certainly is his learning curve.

He stood up, but before jaunting off to find a house parent, he took one last, loving look at those cake crumbs. Funny, funny.

Well, fast-forward to Sunday’s art. This formerly-hungry-all-the-time and eating-crumbs-Charmer spotted a cookie while he was painting.

“Look!” he pointed.

I leaned over and spotted a Keebler Short-Stripe. (Man oh man, I used to gobble those up when I was CJ’s age.) When I straightened up again, I met his grin. “I won’t eat it,” he assured me. “But it looks good.” I guffawed.


The Artist’s First Show

It was great to see so many of you at our Sweet & Savory fundraiser last week. What a fun event – and we raised lots of money for Palmetto Place Children’s Shelter.

The event was a particularly special moment for one of our teenagers. When she first arrived several months ago, I couldn’t believe that an 18 year old with no art training could have that level of talent. As I told her story over and over, I know many people didn’t believe me – that she could be THAT good.

She did two beautiful pieces for our auction at Sweet & Savory – a stunning portrait that she’d drawn from a magazine photo and a whimsical colored-pencil drawing of a girl with big green eyes. They were magnificent.

photo 2

We framed them and displayed them on easels as you walked in the ballroom for our event. It looked like an art show. I had the honor of escorting this cool kid into the ballroom before the crowd arrived so that she could see her work.

She was speechless. It was such a special moment for her – to see her artwork displayed for the very first time in her life.

The green-eyed girl went into the silent auction, with lots of buzz around it all night. We saved the portrait for the live auction. Such a fun moment to watch her watching the crowd bidding on her artwork! Her masterpiece!

photo 1

After it was all over, she and I talked about the night. She said she’d never forget that moment – seeing people admire her art and pay money for it. Before Palmetto Place, I’m not sure anyone had told her she was talented and that her artwork is beautiful. Positive reinforcement goes a long way.

For a girl who three months ago didn’t realize she was talented, this was a huge occasion. A celebration of who she is and the future ahead of her.

This is Palmetto Place – where we have the privilege of making memories and milestones.

It’s not a moment I’ll soon forget either.

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Forever Home

Note: Today’s blog post is from a special guest, Ms. Tori Sizemore, Miss South Carolina Teen USA 2013.

In the mind of every child is a dream; the one thing that towers above every other desire and expectation. Such fantasies are rarely forgotten or achieved.

My childhood dream- my heartfelt prayer- was to have a baby sister. Three brothers later, I accepted my life as the only girl, though my dream of a sister never faded. After years of prodding, my parents surprised me by exploring adoption. We were unprepared when we received a call from an attorney at nine o’clock in the morning.  A young woman who lived on the streets was giving up custody of her ten month old biracial baby girl that very morning. Little Sarah Ann needed a home that day. In a haze of shock and ecstasy, we went to pick up the little girl and by three o’clock that afternoon, I held in my arms the living, breathing answer to countless prayers.

The miracles continued, as fears like financial stability, legal complications and racial prejudice melted away. We knew Sarah belonged in our family, especially when we discovered my father, who is a pediatrician, had cared for her as a newborn. Ironically enough, our story continued when two years later, my father cared for twin biracial girls. The frail babies left the hospital and entered the foster system. We couldn’t explain why, but my family knew we needed to care for them. Our family was too large too foster the twins, so the only other option required a court order. Many considered our case impossible, but after six challenging weeks and a miracle or two, we brought home Lexi and Leah as their foster-to-adopt family. The prayers I made during my mother’s pregnancies each came to fruition; one curly haired princess for every wonderfully wild brother. I am reminded daily of the blessings of adoption: our family is complete and Sarah Ann, Lexi, and Leah are safe, cared for, and loved in their Forever Home.

I believe every child deserves the sense of security and love from a permanent family. It breaks my heart that over 4,000 children in South Carolina do not experience the enduring love they need. Children sit in foster care waiting for permanency because few people know how best to help them. That is why I created the program Forever Home. This program is designed to Educate, Inspire, and Equip people to change lives through adoption and re-unification. My life has been greatly shaped by adoption and as Miss South Carolina Teen, I desire to shape the hearts, minds and lives of the future. Adoption embraces the truths of equality, acceptance, and unconditional love that the next generation is seeking and it can transform the future of American families. My goal and desire is to see the next generation united to create a Forever Home for every child. The issue of adoption and unification awareness is a very personal, powerful message and it needs to reach as many ears as possible. I know that the Lord put me on the road to Miss South Carolina Teen USA to Educate, Inspire, and Equip the entire state and the nation.

Every child has a dream. For many, it is simply to have a loving Forever Home. Let’s make it a reality!

Visit me at:

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Sweat the Small Stuff

The saying goes – don’t sweat the small stuff. But at Palmetto Place, we think the opposite. We do sweat the small stuff because sometimes that’s what matters to our kids.

Quick – what does your child’s bed look like right this moment? Fun sheets with matching comforter, matching pillowcases? Maybe a stuffed animal or two? Colors that match the room? A theme? Even for myself and my lovely yellow and white paisley comforter, I take that for granted.

A volunteer recently donated two matching pink fairy comforters and sheet sets that her very young daughters had outgrown. You want to guess who got that bedding? My two 13-year-old girls who had never had anything pink on their beds. They’d never had something pretty, with fairies! Something that matched!

Sweat the small stuff.

Two brothers were struggling to come to terms with their parents’ actions after both parents were jailed. Our counselor Jill worked with them to list what their parents did really well – good things. The top of the list? Dad made really good oatmeal. That was their memory of their dad. You can bet that those boys will remember that oatmeal for the rest of their lives.

Sweat the small stuff.

When your family goes out to eat, do your kids order off the menu? Do they understand how to read the menu? Not all kids can do that. This past week, I took a teenager to eat at Lizard’s Thicket. Who doesn’t love a meat and three? He didn’t know how to read the menu. He can read, but he had no idea what a “side” was. Or how to pick a salad dressing. He was embarrassed to tell me that he hadn’t eaten at a restaurant in several years.

Sweat the small stuff.

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Happy Groundhog Day!

A few weeks ago, Erin said to me “Everyday here is Groundhog Day.” I wasn’t quite sure if she meant it in the Bill Murray sense, or the Punxsutawney Phil sense.


In some ways, we do live in a time warp here at Palmetto Place. Wrangling so many children means we need a pretty regularized schedule, and each day sort of looks just like the next. When I overheard one resident describing her days to a new arrival recently, she said, “It’s pretty easy. The house parents will wake you up, you do your chores, you get to eat breakfast, you go to school, you come home, you eat until you’re not hungry anymore, you do a little more chores, you do your homework, and you hang out until it’s time to sleep!”

In other ways, each day is perfectly new. We say goodbye to dear friends; we welcome new ones; we strengthen relationships and find kindred spirits in those that have been sitting beside us for quite some time. Some days I stay in the office doing research; others I eat ice cream with teenagers. On that day in January that Erin called our Groundhog Day, I had spent three hours helping to build a set of bunk beds so we could welcome two high school students that needed a place to stay.

As I worked to tighten each screw into those beds, I thought of the promise of spring. It was warm that day, the windows were open in the house and the sunshine warmed our faces. I thought of the safety and security those beds represented, and the new hope that stability might offer those teens. Our Groundhog Days are both Bill Murrays and Punxsutawney Phils. At times we may feel we are repeating our days, but we know that each day brings a little bit of spring into our lives.

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Words with Friends: RESPECT

We’ve started playing a new game in the dining room. Each week, we hang an important word on a string of lights. We’ve invited our residents, staff, and volunteers to write down what that word means to them on index cards and hang them on a cork board. We’d like to share with you some of the responses we received on the topic of respect last week.


  • Respect: No one is better than anyone else. No one is worse than anyone else. Respect this fact, and you will automatically show respect to ALL.
  • Respect – honoring someone else’s opinion, even when you don’t agree.
  • Respect to me means a mutual understanding and guidance from individuals. After all, how can I succeed without you?!

Head over to our facebook page to play along with the word that’s currently hanging up.

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Words with Friends: HOPE

We’ve started playing a new game in the dining room. Each week, we hang an important word on a string of lights. We’ve invited our residents, staff, and volunteers to write down what that word means to them on index cards and hang them on a cork board. We’d like to share with you some of the responses we received on the topic of hope last week.


  • Hope: something that you keep inside your body. Another meaning for it is trust and courage.
  • Hope means that you must always be faithful in anything that you do.
  • Hope means that, as long as you are breathing, you have a chance to be happy. So, I hope for ALL my life, to try for HAPPY!
  • Hope is when you believe in something.
  • Mom ♥ Hope
  • Hope means to love my family and me.
  • Hope: living for the future.
  • Hope is when you trust someone in your life.
  • Hope means that you have the possibility to do anything!
  • Hope is knowing that there are people that care for you even though they don’t show it all the time, and you will always have people that love you.

Head over to our facebook page to play along with the word that’s currently hanging up.

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Volunteering with Kids

Today is Martin Luther King Day, which has become almost synonymous with volunteering and community service.  I hope everyone has the opportunity to serve others in some way today!

Since I started college, volunteering has been an important part of my life.  I often start volunteering somewhere new for a somewhat selfish reason, usually to gain experience for my resume, but it always blooms into a passion for the organization.  I worked in a volunteer office at a major military installation and had the opportunity to help passionate people do what they do best – help others.  This is where I was introduced to the idea of children participating in volunteer activities.  When I was growing up I was never exposed to volunteering, either at school or at home, and discovering that families often volunteer together was an eye-opener for me.  What a great way to teach kids the power of participating in the community, how to make a difference in someone’s life, and how to work together with others.

Palmetto Place functions as a surrogate family for our kids, so I thought it made sense to take them out to volunteer.  While they were out of school for the holidays we went to Harvest Hope Food Bank to help out.  On the way to Harvest Hope we talked about volunteering.  Some of the kids had volunteered before, but it was a new experience for some.   They said they did things like help clean up litter or help wash cars for school fundraisers.  I asked the kids why they thought it was important to volunteer.  They said that it was good to help others, so they would be blessed, and that it was a nice thing to do since people helped them.

Once we arrived the kids were fascinated with the huge warehouse and seeing so much food in one place.  Some of them mentioned that their moms had been to the food bank before to get food for their families.  The staff member explained that things like large, unexpected bills often come up and Harvest Hope is there to help people when they need it.

We got set up and had about 10 packing stations.  One of our kids put the box on an assembly line, and then pushed it over for the next person to add in an item.  This continued at each station until our very strongest kid put the full, taped box on a pallet.  It sounds easy, but believe me, it was hard work!  Sometimes the assembly line got backed up and we had to stop and help someone catch up.  One of our teens, D., was super fast and helped everyone else keep up.  She was a true team player!  Working together with another family, we packed more than 140 boxes of food for people in need!   We made a great team and everyone enjoyed working together to help others.

There are so many people who volunteer their time at Palmetto Place – serving on the board, doing art projects, helping with yard work, organizing supplies, reading to the kids and doing so much more.  We are very appreciative of all the volunteers who help us – Palmetto Place could not function without you!

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