After decades of service to at-risk children in the DeKalb county area, the United Methodist Children’s Home in Decatur sold its property to the city of Decatur for $40 million.
In an April 17 city commission meeting, commissioners voted to purchase the 77 acres of property currently owned by the United Methodist Children’s Home of the North Georgia Conference Inc.
John Cerniglia, vice president of development for UMCH, said the organization is working to find a location that fits the needs of its 80 residents who are currently living on campus.
“We’re in the process of researching options to relocate the 80 people who live on campus,” Cerniglia said. “We’re focusing on DeKalb County so it’s not too much of a move and people can feel close. We want to be on the MARTA line. Ideally, we want to be where we are in a community.”
Cerniglia said the agreement with the city of Decatur is a win-win for all parties involved because the city agreed to preserve the Moore Chapel and the gravesite of UMCH’s founder Rev. Dr. Jesse Boring. The proceeds from the sale also will help children around the state, Cerniglia said.
According to UMHC officials, the nonprofit will invest $30 million in its endowment and the rest will be used for preserving the chapel, the sale, leasehold improvements for residential housing and offices across north Georgia and associated relocation costs.
“Funds from the sale will help the United Methodist Children’s Home to greatly expand local, community-based ministries in towns and cities across north Georgia and partnership with many more churches,” said UMCH President and CEO Rev. Hal Jones.
The only official offer UMHC received was from the city of Decatur, though many expressed interest, UMHC officials said. In January, the UMCH board voted to release assets tied to the property by selling its Decatur campus.
Decatur city officials will ultimately decide what to do with the property’s buildings and greenspace.
“The purchase of this property fits with the city’s mission, vision and values and is an investment for current and future families and children,” said Decatur Mayor Patti Garrett in a statement. “The city of Decatur will conduct a community-based master planning effort for the future use of the property once the sale is final and the city has possession of the property.”
The sale also will help create a preservation covenant for former CEO of UMCH Bev Cochran, who led the ministry for more than four decades. City of Decatur officials also agreed to name the existing administrative building in memory of Cochran.
“I think, overwhelmingly, we’ve had a favorable response [to selling the property] on social media. Our residents seem to be excited about the opportunity to be living in a community,” Cerniglia said. “Initially, I think some of our neighbors were concerned about what would happen with the property, but now I think they’re very happy because the city of Decatur is committing to preserving green space.”