The blessings of the past bring benefits to the future. Dr. Dana Watson first got a glimpse into the children’s care program that the Alabama Baptist Children’s Home serves in multiple cities across the state at 11 years old. Dr. Watson would stay until high-school but vividly remembers his first Christmas at the children’s home. “Christmas before was never something I looked forward to but waking up Christmas morning on my first Christmas at the children’s home and walking around the corner to see a tree filled with 5-6 presents for each of the 12 children in the home was unbelievable. I couldn’t believe the sight and how generous people can be. It was so much fun opening presents around the Christmas tree. I was even sad when it was all over and couldn’t wait until next Christmas.” This is the product of many generous donors to provide all the children in the care of the children’s home this type of experience.
A consistent meal is a real problem for many children that are entering the children’s home. Many of the children come from homes that do not have food in the house because money is spent elsewhere or government aid that could provide food is misappropriated by the parents receiving it. Dana shared about walking down the street on Thanksgiving and a lady asking if he had anything to eat. “She stuck her head out of her screen door and asked me if I had anything to eat. I said no, and she invited me inside to eat a bunch of good fixings. I had never seen a Turkey leg before and was amazed at how big it was compared to a chicken leg, so I ate all that she gave me and kept the Turkey leg to bring home. I ate on it for two days and kept it in the fridge because we never had anything to eat at the house.”
College is an opportunity for many of the children that are a part of the children’s home, so after high-school, Dana attended The University of Mobile, where he received his Bachelor’s degree in Sociology as well as meeting his wife, Ashleigh. Dana and Ashleigh would marry in the summer of 2001. Dana would go on to attend Southwestern Seminary in Fort Worth, Tex, and get multiple Master’s degrees and then start his career back where he grew up as a child with the Alabama Baptist Children’s Home.
Coming back to ABCH, Dana would spend three years with the organization and then move on to the Department of Human Resources in Mobile County for three years. “I thought I was in a tough spot and off track, but God used that experience at DHR to prepare me for the children’s homes,” Dr. Watson said. Dana would return to the ABCH as a social worker and then soon reach his current position of COO and director of the Mobile, Dothan, and Auburn children’s homes.
All the hard times that Dr. Watson has faced as a child has helped him become the leader that these children and organization needs. “It builds your faith and trust in God’s plan for your life to know He’s in the middle of everything and always has a plan. The tough times may be hard, but they help to build my faith.” Dr. Watson said. The message that he shares with the children at the home is one of hope and perseverance. “The kids know that I grew up here, and that is a source of inspiration for them, but that’s not going to help them write their story. I tell them, ‘You’re not me, you’re you, but there’s a plan for you like there’s a plan for me. All you have to do is prepare yourself, and God will be your provider and source of strength.”
Though he does not require people to use the status of “Dr” when calling him by name Dana finished his Ph.D. in Organizational Leadership in March 2019 from Eastern University. Dr. Dana Waston and his wife Ashleigh have four daughters: Aubrey (15), Emma (13), Oliva, (10), and Isabella (5).
Recently the Mobile Baptist Children’s Home completed its third annual Trees for Hope event. Dr. Watson, along with the leadership of Josh Farmer, who is the Development Officer of the ABCH, and the advocacy board helped raise over $102,000.00 through ticket sales and donations for decorated trees, wreaths, and other auction items. The Trees for Hope event first began in Mobile in 2017, dreamed up and driven from the personal faith of three local business owners and community leaders: Eric Ludgate of EnSec Pest and Lawn, Jimmy Dietz of Air of Excellence and Dr. Christopher Mullenix of Mobile Oral Surgery. When these men learned how ABCH is serving children and families from hard places and has been for over 128 years now, they began to seek out an opportunity to combine their efforts to help those in need.
— Chris Taylor
Bay Area Christian Family Magazine