When 82-year-old Annice Whatley was a teenager volunteering with her church youth group in Georgia, she met children living in extreme poverty on the outskirts of town who had been abandoned and abused.
“I can still see their faces,” says Annice, a retired teacher from Rosemont, Georgia. “They broke my heart, and they have been on my mind for all these years.”
In the early 1960s, encounters with World Vision founder Bob Pierce would change her life. In 1960, during a church service in LaGrange, Georgia, she heard the American Baptist minister and relief worker speak about the Korean Children’s Choir—composed of musically gifted children sponsored through World Vision. The choir toured the world to sing for broad audiences.
A few years later, she met Bob at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, where she was attending seminary for a brief time. She learned how his broken heart led him to follow Jesus into the world’s suffering. “This time I learned about child sponsorship, and I signed up that day,” she says.
Ever since then, Annice has worked to make the world a more just place for children, in her home state as well as around the world. She has sponsored more than a dozen children in countries including Bangladesh, El Salvador, Honduras, Lesotho, Myanmar, and Thailand.
She believes World Vision provides lifelines that empower children living in poverty to reach their full potential.
Locally, Annice’s career as a life-changing educator spanned 39 years, mostly in Georgia middle and high schools, giving children hope for a brighter future. “I taught the kids no one wanted. I taught and they learned,” she says.
She steadfastly supports the next generation of teachers by contributing to scholarships to the University of West Georgia, her alma mater, and to science departments in local high schools. She has also served as an English and math teacher on missions to Jordan.
“Our Lord is incredible, and it is to His glory that I have been able to help children who desperately need it,” says Annice, whose Southern drawl flows gently with praise.
Annice attends Rosemont Baptist Church in LaGrange, Georgia, where Pastor Adam Camp has seen her tenacity to help others. His voice bubbled with delight as he shared his fondness for Annice. He didn’t know the extent of her philanthropic endeavors with World Vision but stressed “no surprise there.”
“She’s tough, she’s loving, and she’s incredible,” says Adam. “She is a faithful member of the church and our community. She loves children. She loves gardening and has taught children in our community to garden. She’s one of the greatest servants of the Lord.”
Annice also loves animals. She puts that into action by running a rescue shelter for dogs and cats. “God created all animals for a reason,” says Annice, who cares for more than 70 feral cats through her organization, the Friends of Felines, which is linked to a local animal rescue group. A dozen dogs under her care are ready for adoption as well.
“The Lord has saved me and surrounded me with all his guardian angels,” Annice says. “The least I can do is my part to help care for God’s creation.”
As life grows and flourishes in Rosemont, so does Annice’s heart for all of God’s creation—especially children.