It was only a temporary assignment, at least that's how it started.
It certainly wasn't intended to be a long-term career, but 37 years later Rosalind Welch Seabrook remains the Director of Finance at Sunnybrook, a home for young adults in the foster care system.
She is now dedicated to continuing her father's vision for Sunnybrook, a vision that began decades ago.
“Our whole family has always loved the project as it started, but I got the bug. It gets in your system, it becomes part of you," Welch Seabrook said.
For her, the joy of witnessing the growth and development of the young people who live at Sunnybrook is contagious. The fear that surfaces when they first move in, skittish and unsure of what to expect, eventually subsides as they settle into a routine and experience the love and commitment from houseparents and staff.
“Over time you see smiles on their faces, a little spark of confidence beginning to grow, and it’s beautiful. You know it’s a Godly thing,” Welch Seabrook said.
"Sunnybrook is my home, and I love the people I work with, the opportunity to do something for the young people that come my way, that are hurting or need help in many ways. It’s a beautiful ministry.”
As she carries on her father’s life work, Welch Seabrook does not take it lightly.
“It now feels like a tremendous responsibility, an allegiance that I can’t explain. It’s my life and it’s the way I’ve lived the last 37 years after I raised my own family. It’s very much a part of me and something I believe in very strongly," she admitted.
Over the years her father's ministry and passion has effortlessly become her own.
The Founders of Sunnybrook
In 1963, Alonzo Welch along with Clark Stringer, H. J. Massie, J. C. Redd, and Robert Moon opened the doors to Sunnybrook, a non-profit Christian Children’s Home in Jackson, Mississippi. Sunnybrook moved to Ridgeland, Mississippi in 1967 and has been home to hundreds of children and young adults over the past 60 years.
From the very beginning Welch Seabrook was afforded a unique opportunity to participate in the ministry.
"I was grown by the time my parents started this work and I had my own family. My children went to church with the [children at Sunnybrook]. They had some very good friends on this campus that they kept up with over the years, as did my niece and nephew that lived here. It was part of all our lives.”
“We’ve watched the kids here and they became almost like siblings to us because mom and dad looked at them that way. And we didn’t mind sharing, it was fun.”
Continuing the work at Sunnybrook's campus offers a deep-rooted connection to her parents.
“I feel their presence a lot. I can still see Dad walking all of these trails, I can see mother in her little red jeep tooting for them to come out to get the groceries. I can still hear some of her comments about things going on around campus. And we never had a meal that Sunnybrook was not discussed," Welch Seabrook reminisced.
While her father was instrumental in the launch of Sunnybrook, her mother's support for the ministry did not go unnoticed.
“God used both of my parents as a team to begin this wonderful legacy of helping these young people that came from all types of homes, many broken, many non-existent, and it was probably the greatest joy in their lives.”
The Impact of Faith
In addition to housing, Sunnybrook offers education, job training, self-discipline, and a Christian foundation for each young adult in residence. Its impact on the youth that call it home has been undeniable. As the presence of God permeates their lives, a shift in mindset and attitude often emerges.
“It’s been unbelievable- miraculous, really. Most of them come here with very little if any belief. They may know who God is, but they have not had a regular session of teaching or gone to church with their own families. I think as good things begin to happen for them, they start seeing there is a higher power; yes, there is someone helping me that’s bigger than just the people who are here. And you do see a difference in some of them,” Welch Seabrook said.
Seeds of faith are constantly planted in the heart of each youth that walks through the door. Occasionally these seeds sprout right away, other times they don’t grow and blossom until years later. It’s beautiful when these children return as adults, appreciative of the exposure to faith early in their lives.
“Every case has not been successful, but sometimes when you think you’ve lost one, 10 years later they may come back across your path and you just may be surprised. That light bulb might go off when they get out into the world and start experiencing things and then the things they learned here may click. When that light bulb goes off it means something.
They may come by and say, ‘I have my family here, I’d like for you to meet them and I want to show my children where I grew up.’ You see then what God has done for them and how He’s worked in their lives,” Welch Seabrook explained.
Many Sunnybrook graduates are grateful for the resources and opportunities it has provided them.
One alumnus lives close by and periodically volunteers to give back, recognizing the program’s life changing significance on graduates.
“The seeds that grew here, developed, and matured have benefited not only her immediate family but the next generation and that will go on to another generation,” Welch Seabrook explained. “Because once the cycle is broken and people experience healthy and loving relationships, the cycle can be permanently broken for generations to come. And that’s what makes a better world.”
Past, Present and Future
Sunnybrook has been nurturing the neglected youth of our state for more than six decades. Historically, the organization has ministered to children of a variety of ages who had been removed from their guardian’s custody by Child Protection Services (CPS). Because of an increased need and because of changes in funding structures, Sunnybrook now works exclusively with transitional-age youth.
Older youth exiting the foster care system or preparing to leave their parents' care often struggle to launch successfully. Sunnybrook’s goal is to prepare youth for a life of sustainability after they leave their current care structure. Through programming, staffing, and facilities, the organization is specifically ministering to young people during these transitional years. Young adults are given the tools they need to succeed and thrive as engaged members of their communities.
Despite a legacy that now spans six decades, Welch Seabrook knows that her father’s vision for ministry at Sunnybrook is only just beginning.
Her eyes light up and smile grows whenever she takes a moment to reflect on the joys of the past, success in the present and, most notably, the future ahead for the Ministry. Glowing from ear to ear, she added: “The future of Sunnybrook’s legacy is the continuation of helping many other young people as the opportunity presents itself and as the need is there. This can go on for generations if we have people here as we have now that are dedicated to helping young people become the people that God has made them to be, giving them the help they need to navigate this world.”
Honoring Sunnybrook's Legacy
Witness the Sunnybrook legacy in action by hearing how the ministry provided a second chance at a functional family for Tim Waldrop as he reflects on 40 years of living and working at Sunnybrook Children’s Home.
You can celebrate with us all year long by visiting our 60th Anniversary page as we capture 60 years of storied impact that’s making a difference, one life at a time. Plus, sign up below to receive monthly emails with snippets highlighting the past, present, and future joy and success of this ministry.