We would be honored to talk to your organization about ways to become involved with the important work of The Porch Light. To request a speaker, please contact Michele.Newsome@ThePorchLight.org.
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.
Pam Whitaker, Ed.D., LMHC
Vice President of Programs
Dr. Whitaker has received a Bachelor’s of Science (B.S.) in Social Work from Florida Southern College, earned a Master’s of Arts (M.A.) in Counseling Education from the University of South Florida, and holds an Doctorate in Education (Ed.D.) from Nova Southeastern University, majoring in Organizational Leadership with a minor in Conflict Resolution. Dr. Whitaker has been a Licensed Mental Health Counselor since 1997 and is a Qualified Supervisor for counselors seeking licensure.
For the past 15 years, Dr. Whitaker has served as the 3rd and 4th grade Sunday School Teacher at Kathleen Baptist Church, Lakeland, Florida. She also active in assisting the homeless through the church ministry and also works in the church nursery. Married to Gary Whitaker since 1986, they have an adult daughter, Tierney.
Dr. Whitaker is passionate about bringing creative, Christ-centered services to children and families in need and reaching the “least of these.”
To contact Dr. Whitaker:
1015 Sikes Blvd.
Lakeland, FL 33815
Phone: 863.687.8811 or 863.577.4468
The Porch Light Director of Community Relations
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 that 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 her 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 and her late husband, Buddy, are co-founders of F.A.I.T.H. Riders, an International and National Motorcycle Ministry started at First Baptist Church at the Mall in 2002. Michele and Buddy were married 19 years and have 3 grown children and 5 adopted children they sponsor in Moldova.
Michele is married to her high school friend, police training officer and former homicide detective Bradley Grice.
Michele enjoys 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.
To contact Michele M. Newsome:
P.O. Box 8190, Lakeland, FL 33802