Invite us to speak to your church, group or organization regarding a wide variety of topics related to our work, or invite us to lead your regular worship service as pulpit supply; we have several ordained ministers on our staff. Our speakers can present a program on our services, on the social issues that necessitate the existence of a Children’s Home, or on ways one could help.
The following speakers are available by the areas listed below:
Jerry T. Haag, Ph.D., CFP®
He served as an assistant professor at Fort Hays State University in Hays, KS, from 1995-1997 and was named the Mortar Board Top Professor in 1995 and 1996. From 1997-1998, he taught at Samford University in Birmingham, AL, before joining Shades Mountain Baptist Church in Birmingham as administrative pastor from 1998-2000.
He also has corporate work experience with AT&T and is a Certified Financial Planner.
From 2000-2007, Dr. Haag served as president and CEO of the South Texas Children’s Home in Beeville.
In 2007, Dr. Haag joined the staff at Florida Baptist Children’s Homes as the ninth president in the organization’s rich history, which dates back to 1904. During his tenure as president, he has guided the expansion of ministry sites from nine locations in Florida to 23 locations across the state, launched a successful international childcare ministry, Orphan’s Heart, to help children in 16 countries around the world, launched The Porch Light, a ministry focused on preventing child sex trafficking and restoring victims, and established numerous partnerships with churches and nonprofit organizations.
In 2013, he launched The Porch Light ministry, which includes Florida’s first certified safe home for child victims of sex trafficking. The Porch Light also focuses on prevention, advocacy and training efforts to fight the heinous crime and make local communities safer for children and families.
Under Dr. Haag’s leadership, the number of children and families served through Florida Baptist Children’s Homes has continued to increase. In 2006, prior to him coming on board, FBCH served 3,351 children and adults. In 2016, the ministries impacted 171,273 children and adults.
Dr. Haag has been appointed by both Gov. Charlie Crist and Gov. Rick Scott to serve on the Florida Faith-based and Community-based Advisory Council. He also served as a member of the Citizen Review Panel for Florida Department of Children and Families, which was formed as mandated by the Federal Child Abuse and Treatment Act of 1996. Dr. Haag also chaired the Christian Alliance for Orphans (CAFO) National Foster Care Initiative – Faith and Foster Care Research Team and served on the President’s Advisory Council.
Dr. Haag had the pleasure of being selected to participate in a distinguished seminar on Religion and U.S. Foreign Policy, sponsored by the Institute on Culture, Religion and World Affairs at Boston University. Participants were leaders from around the world who work in academia, government, religious institutions, media and nongovernmental organizations. The seminar focused on how beliefs, values and lifestyles affect economic and political developments worldwide, with special attention paid to the role of religion in world affairs.
Dr. Haag has led and participated in humanitarian aid, emergency relief, childcare and ministry to children and families in countries around the world. He has preached in churches across Florida and Texas. He and his wife, Christi, also enjoy speaking together.
Additionally, he has authored, presented and published academic articles relating to his business expertise and has been honored several times for his business, professional and civic achievements.
The Baylor Alumni Association named him an Outstanding Young Alumnus in 2005. He was named Baylor University’s Vice President for University Development in 2011, where he served before returning as President of Florida Baptist Children’s Homes.
Dr. Haag lives with his wife in Lakeland, FL. Christi is a well-known speaker with “Women of Purpose Speak.” Their eldest son, Ben, lives and works in Dallas, TX, and their youngest son, Brady, attends Baylor University. Dr. Haag and Christi are members of Church at the Mall in Lakeland.
Wife of Dr. Jerry T. Haag
Christi is the wife of Dr. Jerry Haag, President of Florida Baptist Children’s Homes, Orphan’s Heart and The Porch Light. Christi has a deep passion for children and adults both domestically and internationally. Having grown up at a children’s home in Texas where her father worked for over 30 years, she knows first hand about children and childcare needs.
Christi is a witty speaker with a fun sense of humor. Christi loves “her man”, who she has been married to for 28 years. She has 2 incredible boys, Ben (22) and Brady (21).
Christi has led and participated in Christian orphan care, humanitarian aid, emergency relief, medical missions, childcare and ministry to children and families in Haiti, Nicaragua, Uganda, Peru, Dominican Republic, South Africa, Tanzania, Mexico, Guatemala, Russia, Latvia, Switzerland and Honduras. She has traveled to Bosnia, Spain, France, Hawaii, Bahamas, Italy, England, Mediterranean, China, Denmark, Sweden, Germany, Estonia, Finland, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania, Greece and Turkey and several other countries for recreational, missional and educational purposes.
Christi is an advocate for orphans, homeless and the hungry and speaks passionately about her call to reach out to “…the least of these.”
Christi is a Women’s Bible study teacher and has been a guest on Christian radio and has been featured in magazines and newspapers. The wisdom and application Christi shares will forever change your perception of Jesus and your daily relationship with Him.
Vice President of Church Relations and Strategic Operations
Prior to joining Florida Baptist Children’s Homes in 2010, Stephen worked in the furniture industry for 10 years. He was the General Manager for an independently owned Badcock & More furniture dealership overseeing multiple retail store locations.
Stephen graduated from Florida State University with a degree in economics and earned a master’s degree in Christian studies from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Stephen has been ordained into the Gospel Ministry by his home church, Plant City’s First Baptist Church.
He and his wife, Laura, have four children, Rileigh, Landen, Hannah, and Micah and they reside in Lakeland, FL.
Vice President of Development
A graduate from the University of Central Florida with a bachelor’s degree in medical record administration and a master’s degree in health sciences, Averitt has more than 25 years of experience in nonprofit leadership.
Prior to joining FBCH, Averitt was employed by Orlando Health where he was Vice President within their Foundation and provided oversight for the capital campaign, annual fund program, donor relationships and policy development. He is noted for his visionary, effective and results-driven leadership. Averitt was instrumental in the development of the Orlando Health Foundation’s vision and mission, and he is a known mentor in philanthropy throughout the Southeast.
Averitt is a graduate of the Fund Raising School of the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University where he received a certificate in fundraising management. Prior to taking on the Vice President role at the Orlando Health Foundation, he served as the Capital Campaign Director and the Development Director.
Averitt has been a member of First Baptist Church Orlando for more than two decades and has served in multiple roles including deacon, teacher and member of the finance committee. He and his wife, Renee, have three daughters: Whitney, Kristen and Sarah.
Averitt believes his role at FBCH is a unique way to love and serve those in the most vulnerable positions and to be the hands and feet of Christ.
Vice President of International Childcare
Prior to joining Florida Baptist Children’s Homes in 2008, Ron served as a Southern Baptist pastor in Kentucky, Tennessee and Texas. He and his wife, Cynthia, and their three sons, Samuel, Lee and Andrew, served with the International Mission Board in Eastern Europe. Ron was the Strategy Associate for the Central Europe Field, overseeing work in Romania, Hungary, Moldova, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. After returning from the mission field, Ron served with the Baptist General Convention of Texas, first as Regional Associate for the Greater Houston Area, and then as COO/Associate Executive Director.
Pam Whitaker, Ed.D., LMHC
Vice President of Programs
Speaking Topics: Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children, Resident/Group Care, Grief/Loss in Children/Youth, Trauma Informed Care (effects of abuse and neglect on children/youth), Emotional and Spiritual Needs of Children, Conflict Resolution, Volunteer Opportunities for FBCH campuses.
Administrator of Statewide Programs
In her role, Vickie provides oversight for statewide programs including The Porch Light, adoption services and Caring Families. Vickie is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in the State of Florida and is a qualified supervisor for counselors seeking licensure. Vickie has more than 20 years of experience working with children, youth and families in crisis. She has received specialized training working with young children, obtaining credentials as a Registered Play Therapist, and she is certified as an Adoption Competent Professional. Vickie is a member of First Baptist Church in Fort Meade and volunteers and teaches in both the preschool and children ministries there. She has been married to her husband since 1988 and they have two biological sons and an adopted daughter.
Director of Compassion Ministries
During his time in Ministry, Leon saw the great amount of trauma that families were being confronted with and desired to get a deeper look into the dependency system. He changed career paths and started working for the Department of Children and Families (DCF). During his time with the department, he investigated abuse within families, institutions and later became the Human Trafficking Specialist for Polk County. While there, Leon helped children get out of abusive homes and also helped rescue children from human trafficking rings. He received multiple recognitions from Governor Rick Scott during his time with DCF. Leon is confident that the job experiences that he has received in the church and in the world will equip him to be an effective director at Florida Baptist Children’s Homes.
Leon is currently a part of a church plant in South Tampa called Radiant Church. He is the point person for hospitality and also leads a life group in Lakeland, Florida. He has a deep passion for intervention. He desires to see Christ’s love and restoration brought to families during their times of hurt and crisis. Leon believes that the local church is the greatest asset for families in need and desires to empower the local church to step into the call of Christ, which is to help the widow, the orphan and the hurting families in their time of need.
Director of Development
Rebecca earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting from the University of South Florida in Tampa, FL. She went on to receive her master’s in business administration from Saint Leo University. Prior to joining the staff at Florida Baptist Children’s Homes, Rebecca was an accountant at Raulerson & Co., where she was responsible for client communications as well as nonprofit tax issues and audits. She also created, developed and led the homeless ministry at Plant City’s First Baptist Church from 2012-2014.
As an adopted child herself, Rebecca has a passion for giving hope and worth to hurting children through the life-changing love of Christ.
Rebecca and her husband, Mark, have been married for nine years and reside in Plant City. They have three children, Layla, Rex and Jacob. In her spare time she enjoys competitive running. She is an active member at Plant City’s First Baptist Church as a youth leader, deacon’s wife and homeless ministry volunteer.
Director of Major Gifts for Central and East Florida
Erica also serves as the staff coordinator for the Shine a Light Gala benefiting The Porch Light, a ministry to renew and restore childhood victims of sex trafficking.
Erica is a graduate of the University of Florida with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural communications and leadership development. Prior to joining the Children’s Homes, Erica served as the Grassroots and Coalitions Coordinator for a statewide political campaign and, most recently, served as the Education Liaison for Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam.
She is an active member of First Baptist Church Plant City where she serves as a fifth-grade Sunday School teacher and is involved in evangelism outreach. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, canning and traveling. She and her husband Jarrett reside in Plant City.
Mary Lou Hendry
Director of Sanctity of Human Life
Mary Lou teaches on a variety of issues including the Sanctity of Human Life, The Option of Adoption, Passion for Purity and Abortion Recovery.
Mary Lou earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Religious Education and Music from The Baptist College of Florida in Graceville, FL, and is certified with Focus on the Heart for Biblical counseling.
Mary Lou’s husband, Byron, is the pastor of Crossroads Baptist Church in Lakeland, FL. The couple has two children and three grandchildren.
Michele M. Newsome
Director of The Porch Light
Michele graduated with a bachelor’s degree in criminology from Saint Leo University and served in law enforcement as a police officer and detective for 24 years. She worked as a patrol officer, school resource officer and as a detective investigating crimes against children to include emotional, physical and sexual abuse. Michele retired from law enforcement after her tenure in the Office of Professional Standards Internal Affairs Unit.
A graduate of Webster University, Michele has a master’s degree in mental health counseling. She is a registered intern working toward licensure. She has a history of working with victims of sexual abuse, offenders and those with sexual addictions.
Michele is a member of First Baptist Church at the Mall in Lakeland and is a member of the F.A.I.T.H. Riders motorcycle ministry. She and her husband, Buddy, are co-founders of F.A.I.T.H. Riders. Michele and Buddy have been married 18 years and have 3 grown children and 5 adopted children they sponsor in Moldova.
Michele and Buddy enjoy traveling and serving orphaned children in Moldova by partnering with Justice and Mercy International to sponsor orphaned and abandoned children into transitional living. Transitional living affords these children hope and the opportunity to succeed while keeping them from entering a life of crime and trafficking.
Director of Maintenance
Joe has been married for 33 years, has one daughter and one grandson. He has a bachelor’s degree in theology from Andersonville Theological Seminary.
Topics: Bible and the Florida Baptist Children’s Homes
Orphan Care Coordinator (Sarasota County)
Dawn is a project manager and marketing professional with 30+ years experience in corporate and non-profit environments, including involvement with community-driven organizations, family-owned regional companies and international corporations.
Dawn is also an aspiring author working on her first book, a blogger and a social media marketer. She earned a B.A. in Government/ International Relations from Regent University.
As a pastor’s daughter and a pastor’s wife, Dawn is no stranger to the local church or a life of ministry. Through her 23-year infertility battle Dawn learned to worship her way through life’s challenges and heartbreaks. Eventually God granted Dawn and her husband Tim the desires of their heart and they are proud parents to three biological children, including a set of twins, and two adopted children from Guatemala. Their five children are a testimony of God’s faithfulness and His unwavering ability to weave “all things together for the good of those who love him.” (Romans 8:28)
During the family’s adoptions of two children from Guatemala Dawn’s eyes were open to the sobering status of global child welfare. Personally stuck in the adoption process for years, she dedicated the rest of her working years to be an advocate and voice for children in need. Dawn began volunteering with the Both Ends Burning Campaign in 2013 and joined the team full-time in January 2014, running faith-based initiatives and outreach for the organization. It was during this period she became connected with Christian Alliance for Orphans, (CAFO) which led her to Florida Baptist Children’s Homes.
Dawn is passionate about the rights of children without parents, both in the U.S. and internationally. Dawn’s passion is to make a real and tangible difference in the lives of children who have been abandoned, neglected or abused.
Orphan Care Coordinator (Brevard County)
She turned that passion into a career with ministry and non-profit organizations.
She has been married to her husband Josh since 2008. Josh is currently the Lead Pastor of True Life Church, a church plant where he began as the Worship Pastor. In their 7 years of marriage, Lisa and Josh have lived in 3 different cities, following God’s lead for Josh to serve at different churches. They are thrilled to be back in their hometown and close to their families.
They have two dogs, Molly and Baxter, who are like children to them. They have a strong desire to have children and continue to seek God’s will as they faithfully walk through a season of infertility.
Lisa is thrilled to be a part of the Florida Baptist Children’s Homes as the Orphan Care Coordinator for Brevard County and is thankful for the faithful congregation at First Baptist Melbourne for helping fund her position. She is excited to engage the local congregations in orphan care ministries and can’t wait to come alongside individuals and families to bring hope and the love of Jesus to One More Child!
Gloria Morrow, Ph.D.
Gloria is from upstate New York and currently resides in Central Florida. She has been married to her best friend, Steve, since 1989. They enjoy working in church ministry and serving those in need. They have two teenage children at home, Michael and Tabitha, along with Rocky, their miniature pinscher and Belle, their cat.
In 1990, Gloria graduated from Southeastern University with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. She also holds a master’s in human services, with counseling specialization from Capella University and is currently pursuing a doctorate in psychology. Gloria has experience in church (pastoral) counseling and leading altar ministry. She is also an instructor for Human Services courses at Southeastern University.
“All extremes are dysfunctional” is one of Gloria’s favorite quotes, and she has a passion to help others learn balance in how God has created us spirit, soul and body.
Counseling Teens – how to recognize where teens are developmentally and work with them through their metamorphosis of identity
Crisis Intervention of Youth – what is the best way to help a teen or young child get through crisis
Group Care Living – what it is like to live in a group home and how to minister to the youth who live there
Executive Director of Foster Care Ministries
Melissa has been a Certified Behavior Analyst in the state of Florida since 1993 and has also been a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in the state of Florida since 1995. She is also a qualified supervisor for counselors seeking licensure. Melissa has more than 20 years experience working with children, youth and families in crisis and has received specialized training in trauma-informed care as well as Infant mental health.
Melissa is a member of Chets Creek Church and volunteers in the preschool ministries there. She has been married to Ray Poole since 1991 and has a daughter, Hannah, a stepson, Blake, two grandsons, Addison and Colton, and one granddaughter, Kennedy.
Melissa is available to speak on the following topics: Foster parenting, trauma-informed care (effects of abuse and neglect on children/youth), infant mental health, discipline/behavior modification, and emotional and spiritual needs of children.
To contact Melissa Poole:
2300 Bartram Road
Jacksonville, Florida 32207
Director of Church Relations
In 2005, Sundy joined Mercy Ministries in St. Louis, Missouri, a nonprofit organization committed to helping young women with life-controlling problems such as eating disorders, drug addiction, self-harm and child abuse. During her time as a counselor at Mercy, she also became involved in orphan ministry. She has served short-term missions in the Philippines, South Africa, Ukraine and Colombia, as well as volunteered for various humanitarian organizations.
This passion for the broken and hurting children of the world brought her to the anti-trafficking organization, Stop Child Trafficking Now, where she served five years as the National Director. Sundy loves her big, blended family of eight siblings. Two are adopted internationally.
PANHANDLE OF FLORIDA
Executive Director of Campus Ministries
Jonathan has 10 years experience working in child welfare in Florida focusing on residential and foster care services. Jonathan desires for each child who enters our care to know that they are safe and that they are loved by staff, but most importantly that they are loved by Christ. He uses his knowledge and experience to implement best practices to help provide quality service to each child we serve.
Jonathan graduated from Florida State University with a bachelor’s degree in family and child sciences and earned a master’s degree in human services and executive leadership from Liberty University. Jonathan is a member of Thomasville Road Baptist Church, where he leads the children’s worship ministry. Jonathan is married to Melissa (Missy) and they have two children, Hailey and Westin.
Speaking Topics: Residential/Group Care, FBCH Campus Volunteer Opportunities
To contact Jonathan Hasel:
8415 Buck Lake Road, Tallahassee, FL 32317
Director of Regional Ministries
Tania is married to Chip, and they have two teenage daughters, Kayla and Erika. Her family lives in Pace, Florida.
Topics: Residential Care, Foster Care, Prevention Ministries
TOPICS: House Parenting, Ministering to Broken Families, Pulpit Supply
Scott was raised in Miami, where he currently resides with his wife, Ellie. They have been married for almost four years. Scott has served as Youth Director for various churches, leading middle and high school students.
Scott graduated from Florida International University with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. He also earned a master’s in counseling psychology from Trinity International University. Scott’s counseling experience includes working with adult women with substance abuse and mental health disorders. He also has experience working with children and adolescents providing individual therapy and counseling at various counseling centers.
Scott’s heart for children and counseling, and a desire to see others bring about change in their lives, led him to Florida Baptist Children’s Homes to be the Residential Counselor. He believes that as Christ was the great Counselor. Scott wants to help others through counseling using biblical perspectives to bring about positive change in their lives.
Substance Abuse Among Teens: Identification, Prevention, and How to Cope
Crisis Intervention: How to Help Kids Deal with Meltdowns
Biblical Counseling: How to Incorporate the Bible into Counseling
Youth Ministry 101: How to Work with Teens in the Church