Snyder Turner thinks it’s funny when people ask him how long he’s been head of Calvary Children’s Home. He took over in 1971 for his father, Rev. Ben Turner, who passed away in 2006.
Located in Powder Springs on a bucolic 25 acres, the children’s home has been caring for youngsters since the elder Turner founded it in 1965.
Children come to the home for various reasons, be it a parent’s death, neglect or abuse. They can stay at the home for a few years or many.
Turner, the executive director, said the home tries to reunite children with their families when possible. Staff encourages family members to visit the children, aged from very little up to high school and even college.
“We’re not trying to take your relationship with a parent away,” Turner said this week as he sat in his spacious office, decorated with a beautiful picture of the greens at Augusta National.
Calvary Children’s Home started with only six children and one building in Smyrna following a trip to Israel by the elder Turner. There, a woman with five children offered him a baby for $10.
"When told he could not buy the child, she lowered the price to seven dollars, then to five, saying she needed the money to feed her other children," the home's website says. "Suffering from malnutrition, each child looked like skeletons with skin merely stretched over them."
Now, the faith-based home has 21 children, and in its 40-plus years, has given more than 400 a place to live.
The home relocated to the Powder Springs campus in 1997, where it has been able to expand its services and features three homes, a playground and a gym that is under construction.
Receiving no state or federal money, the home survives purely on donations from the community. The children live in the three homes, each with a house parent or a couple that acts as the adults in the house.
The children attend public school and ride a bus there. They have tutors and counselors to help them.
Also serving as the minister at Calvary Baptist Church, Turner said there have been some pretty sad situations. Once, a boy’s mother dropped he and his siblings off, telling them she’d be back to pick them up after “camp.”
Though she lived only seven miles down the road, it took her 10 years to return.
“She said, ‘I kept thinking I should stop by,'" Turner said. “You think?”
One of the main obstacles to overcome is the children thinking they are the problem at home, he said, adding that the staff tries to get them to listen to God’s word.
“We say, ‘Your father loves you,’ and he’s thinking, ‘Yeah I know all about fathers,’” Turner said. “The vast majority of what we do doesn’t have to happen” or can be avoided if parents would be responsible.
But Turner likes to focus on the successes the children have. Three of the children just graduated from high school and are going to college or into the military.
The staff likes to teach the children that “if you take care of God’s business, he’ll take care of you," he said.
Turner lives with his wife, Marsha, in Kennesaw. They have two grown sons and two grandchildren.
Born in Toccoa in Northeast Georgia, Turner's family has lived in Marietta, Ringgold and Smyrna. He graduated from Campbell High School and went on to Kennesaw, which was then a junior college.
He then went on to the Atlanta Law School, which no longer exists. Turner never practiced law full time, but his knowledge has helped with legal matters at Calvary.
He has two nicknames: "Papa" to his grandchildren and "Uncle Snyder" to the children at Calvary.
"He's the most dedicated person I've ever met," said long-time board member James Plemmons, "to the Lord and the children."