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Manuelito Children’s Home provides safety net for Native kids

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Located on the west end of town, the Manuelito Children’s Home is off the beaten path, possibly forgotten about by some locals.

But anyone traveling the far west side of Gallup on Interstate 40, the signage is clear, the name painted large on the backside of the sprawling circa 1970’s gymnasium. South of the gymnasium, which is often mistaken for the home itself, lies a little slice of paradise for the 16 children, ages 7 to 19, that call Manuelito Children’s Home – home.

The children don’t live in a dormitory, they reside in spacious ranch style houses, one each for the boys and girls, plus a relief house – where the young residents reside while their house parents take a break from work.

“This is not a juvenile facility … a place where bad kids go,” Superintendent Jim Christian said.

The serene campus is located along a circular drive, with one facility that serves as the educational hub – Gallup Christian School. MCH is sponsored by Gallup Church of Christ. It began as what Christian called a “preaching mission” about 58 years ago at the Manuelito Chapter on the Navajo Nation.

It was 1959, and times we’re challenging. Not all of the reservation folks embraced the church’s Christian message. The area, mired in poverty, became a second chance for children in need. Taking in needy children shifted the church’s overall mission to that of a children’s home. By 1964, the homes at the current location at 12 Theta Street were built.

And providing a stable environment for children that Christian said often arrive at the home behind in school, or suffering from behavioral, emotional, and/or social problems, is the organization’s top mission, in addition to providing spiritual teachings and support via Church of Christ.

Christian said MHC receives no government funding, but must meet stringent state requirements.

“We are completely privately funded,” he said, adding that it cost about $1 million annually to keep the campus afloat.

Each home has a set of “house parents” – a mom and dad that provide structure and activities for the young residents.

House parent Norman Atchison works and lives in “Cottage 3” with his wife Cathy. The demanding and rewarding job is close to his heart as he grew up at MHC.

He came back to the home to “give what was given to me,” he said.

Atchison travels the country to conduct fundraisers and to collect food and non-food items from donation
drives.

“I speak and raise money for the home,” he said.

While some children may come into the home, totally detached from their families, others remain attached, Christian said, spending weekends away with grandparents or other family.

“We want them to know where they came from,” he said.

Christian has lived in Gallup for 31 years, and said his own rocky childhood made him feel a strong connection to MHC.

“I feel this is where God intended me to be,” he said. “Everything worked so easy for me to be here and do it.”

WILD THING & GIVING

For the past 23 years, Wild Thing Championship Bull-Riding event has served as a major fundraiser for the home. Both children and staff team up to handle the parking and concessions.

Christian said on average the organization nets somewhere between $10k - $12k.

But, the children’s home needs the community’s help year-round.

Donations can be submitted via PayPal at www.mnch.info or mailed to: PO Box 58, Gallup, NM 87305. MCH can also use paper products, such a paper towels, toilet paper, and hygiene items for the children. To donate or for more information call: (505) 863-5530.

By Babette Herrmann

Sun Editor


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