n 1998, Sela Ward visited a local emergency shelter and was profoundly moved by the children she met and disturbed by their stories. These children were separated from their siblings and had experienced many moves since first taken into custody by the MS Department of Human Services. Sela and her family continued to visit the shelter each time she returned to her hometown of Meridian, MS and each time she became more determined that something must be done.
In early 2000 Sela and her husband Howard Sherman recruited local community leaders to join them in their campaign to improve the lives of foster children in Mississippi. A new board of directors was formed and Hope Village was born. Thirty acres in the heart of Meridian had been used to serve children for over 100 years as the Masonic Children’s Home. This property was no longer needed for its original purpose and was an ideal location to house foster children and to create a new vision for their lives.
Sela and Howard began the process of making the purchase of this property a reality. With the help of the Entertainment Industry Foundation, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and the enormous generosity of our community, the property was secured. The Riley Foundation provided the necessary funds to renovate and upgrade the property to make it a warm and inviting home for children.
At that time, our community housed foster children in multiple locations. The incorporation of all current services was the first step in opening Hope Village for Children. The East Mississippi Children’s Shelter (Peavey House) was an emergency shelter for children birth through 12 years of age. This facility moved onto our new campus in August 2001. Lauderdale County had also established two group homes for teenagers. Hilltop House for Girls and Hilltop House for Boys relocated in January 2002, and Hope Village for Children was officially open for business.