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By MARTY FINLEY email@example.com GLENDALE — The Glen Dale Center for children, once known as the Kentucky Baptist Children’s Home, in Glendale may be relocating to Elizabethtown next year, but its site along Gilead Church Road houses a lot of memories. Those memories were recollected Sunday as alumni from several generations of the facility’s 93-year existence were on hand to celebrate the home and what it meant to them at the center’s homecoming picnic. As alumni made their way around the property, some were explaining to their family members how the property once looked and where old buildings stood, while others were looking around for old friends so they could catch up. Gail Webb Hensley of Lexington credited the home for the things she has in life. She said she has tried to return as much as she can. Hensley became a resident of the home in 1935 at the age of 5 and stayed there for 13 years. The Great Depression was raging and she was left without parents. The home served primarily as an orphanage at the time for needy children, and she said the children were sponsored by different Baptist churches, which would buy them clothes and other items when needed. She said the experience was wonderful for her and the Baptists treated her kindly. Buckley Carlin of Elizabethtown also feels a strong connection to the home. He spent time there as a kid in the late ’40s and early ’50s and returned in 1980 to become program director of the center. Carlin said the school, which had about 180 kids at the time, was a place where he was taken care of and treated well. He said the kids were heavily involved in the community, playing sports and attending school. The kids also found something to do at the center, he said, by working on the farm. While serving as the program director, he worked with others to get individualized treatment and education for the kids who passed through the doors of the center, he said. The center is special because it was willing to be flexible and address the needs of the time, Carlin said. Other facilities that were around during that time are long gone now, he said, because they refused to change. Bill Smithwick, director of the Glen Dale Center, said it has transformed itself because child welfare continues to change. Smithwick said most of the kids who come to the center now are recommended by the state and have faced some type of abuse or neglect. The kids also stay for shorter periods of time now, with an average child staying about nine months, Smithwick said. He said they are more focused on moving the children into foster homes and help them find stable lives. But while the center may have changed its focus, it still enjoys honoring the past. Karen Taylor, vice president of marketing and advancement for Sunrise Children’s Services, said the homecoming is a project that the alumni have been organizing for many years, and the staff supports them by making sure invitations are sent out, food is prepared and the grounds are tended to. Carlin said he still hears from people who simply say, “they cared for us.” He said he hopes the center will always provide that care for children who need it. Hensley said she has been out of the center for 60 years now and has only missed four of the homecomings. “I still look forward to coming back and seeing everybody,” she said. Marty Finley can be reached at (270) 505-1762.