Founded as a Presbyterian ministry in 1875, Thornwell is a full service, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization committed to providing the most innovative and effective solutions to help children and families in need. We provide Christian love and support to hundreds of children and families throughout Florida, Georgia and South Carolina. Our mission involves a complete continuum of care that enables us to fully support the child and the family wherever they are in their journey to wholeness and healing.

Who We Are We provide hope for hurting children and families in three ways:

Safe and loving homes through family-style residential care and foster care families

Hope for a brighter future through academic programs as well as community-based programs

Wholeness and healing through the nurturing love of Jesus and professional counseling and therapy

Thornwell is a proud member of the Teaching-Family Association and proud to be COA accredited. We are an independent ministry in covenant relationship with the churches in SC, GA and FL of the PC(USA) Synod of the South Atlantic.

How We Are Doing

Currently, Thornwell maintains operations in 20 different locations throughout Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina.  With over 140 professionals on staff, we are committed to continuing our ministry to meet the growing need. In 2018, we served 3,179 children and families.

View our most recent annual reportForm 990, or Audited Financial Statements.

Called to Grow to Help More in Need

29% More Lives Changed Because of YOU!

Download our fact sheet to share with others!


Campus Focus: expanding the Independent Living program, expanding the Young Mothers program, expanding program offerings to meet the changing needs of children in residential care, redeveloping Thornwell LushAcres Farm to offer a community focus for farm revitalization and agritourism, other possibilities include: Family Counseling Center & Culinary Arts Program

Community Focus:  adding cycles for our Strengthening Families Program, new locations for our Building Families Program, creating a stronger community for our foster families

Education Focus: serving more children in our Early Head Start Program & Read Right Center, partnering with Thornwell Charter School located on the Thornwell campus

2018 Impact At-a Glance

Building Families Community Outreach 
2,240 children & families served across South Carolina, Georgia & Florida

Family-style Residential Care
children had a safe home

Foster Care Families Recruitment & Training
143 children living with families who opened their hearts & homes

Professional Counseling & Therapy
children are closer to healing

Strengthening Families Program
families with stronger foundations

Independent Living Classes
teens & young adults equipped with basic life skills

Afterschool & Summer Learning Center
children improved in school

Kindergarten & Early Head Start Programs
at risk little ones were loved and nurtured

Looking ahead – A Continued Emphasis on Family

Thornwell is committed to growing our ministry as long as the need continues to be so great.  Thornwell’s leadership constantly studies state, family and child needs and remains flexible to meet those needs. Currently, Thornwell is celebrating a new Family Foster Care Program in South Carolina. This Family Foster Care program trains and supports new foster parents with the same Teaching-Family Model tools and techniques used by our family teachers and family specialists in our other programs.

Our Core Values

Children – We believe each child is created in the image of God—worthy of love, respect, and redemption. We value the children entrusted to our care and commit ourselves to providing the very best possible services to each individual who comes to Thornwell.

Family – We believe each child should be given the opportunity to grow up in a family. That’s why all of our programs are family-centered. We also affirm our responsibility to build upon and facilitate the strengths of each family we serve.

Christian Nurture – As a ministry of the Presbyterian Church (USA), we believe in and affirm the importance of each person’s relationship with God. To that end, we employ individuals who take their spiritual life seriously; provide religious nurture for all children in our care in order that they may respond to life’s relationships and responsibilities as a child of God; provide programs and services in a manner that affirms each individual’s culture and religious heritage; and value and nurture our century-old relationship to the Presbyterian Church (USA).

Education – Because we firmly believe in the value of lifelong education, Thornwell provides the children and youth in our care with the tools and knowledge needed to succeed in their academic and vocational endeavors.

Leisure Time & Recreation – We believe that teaching successful living means teaching our children the skills they need to properly balance work and play. Thornwell takes pride in having an on-campus recreational center devoted to supporting fun and safe recreational activities for children of all ages. A swimming pool, basketball court, volleyball court, and other outdoor facilities are located on Thornwell’s campus. In the cottages, family teachers encourage their children to develop creative outlets and pursue individual interests in music, art, sports, theater, and more.

Community – We affirm the characteristics of positive community that include diversity; shared value; caring, trust, and teamwork; active participation; effective internal communication; affirmation; a forward view of the future; arrangements for community maintenance; and links to the larger community.


Photo of Thornwell Home for Children
The Home of Peace

Thornwell Home for Children began as a dream in the heart of a young Presbyterian minister in Clinton, SC. Following the devastation of the Civil War, William Plumer Jacobs, of First Presbyterian Church in Clinton, wanted to build an orphanage.

Dr. Jacobs‘ dream was energized when 10-year-old Willie Anderson of a nearby community gave Reverend Jacobs fifty cents and said, “This is to help build your orphanage.”

Dr. Jacobs’ named the orphanage after a mentoring theological professor, and Thornwell opened its doors on October 1, 1875, to 10 orphaned children. Dr. Jacobs’ belief “that God so willed and would, therefore, support the endeavor,” carried him and his beloved orphanage through the post-war years until his death in 1917.

Dr. Jacobs documented the progress and struggles of the fledgling orphanage in his diary. Many find his recorded words inspirational for their demonstrations of his reliance upon the Lord for provisions for his children. Further, Dr. Jacobs’ diary catalogs the answers that God provided. Those answers were often exactly what Dr. Jacobs needed and came at just the right time.

The Home of Peace was the residence of Dr. William Plumer Jacobs, the visionary who heard the call of God to begin a home for children orphaned by the Civil War.  In his home, Dr. Jacobs and his wife, Mary, welcomed the first children to find a refuge at Thornwell.

In times past the Mayes-Dowdle House was the Baby Cottage where Thornwell’s youngest residents lived. Now beautifully restored, the Mayes-Dowdle House is the headquarters of the Thornwell Alumni Association.

Board of Trustees


The Rev. Amalie Ash
Mrs. Sylvia Collins
Mr. Tom Free
Mr. David O. Rivers


Mr. Jim Conner
Mrs. Sara Evans
Mr. Gordon Lee Hight, II
Mrs. Mary Martin
Mrs. Jean P. McKnight
Mr. Steven L. Roberts

South Carolina

Mr. Julius J. Anderson
Mr. Gordon E. Bondurant
The Rev. Dr. Ella F. Busby
Ms. Kay Cleveland
Mr. Anthony Dawson
The Rev. Dr. Charles Elliott
Mr. M. Craig Garner, Jr.
Mr. Ben M. Gramling, III
Mrs. Harriet D. Ike
Mrs. Teresa D. Madden
Mrs. Susan W. Malloy
Mr. Jim Morton
Mrs. Dorianne Norwood
Dr. Michael W. Payne
Mr. Maurice A. Purcell
Dr. Stanley G. Walsh, Jr.

Trustees Emeriti

Mr. Thomas Adams
Mr. John S. Anderson
Dr. James E. Cousar
Mrs. Mary Wain Ellison (Boyd)
Brigadier General (Ret.) Hugh McLaurin III
Dr. George B. Richardson
The Rev. Dr. Robert D. Taylor