Elon Homes and Schools for Children is a community organization that serves underprivileged children and families in North Carolina. Elon Homes has grown over the years, including the merger with the Charlotte-based Boys Town in 1986. It now offers services in both Elon and Charlotte. Due to the changing and current needs of at-risk childen in all thirteen counties of North Carolina, the services offered by Elon Homes are constantly being reviewed and revised. What was once a single residential facility has grown to become a dynamic group with a variety of programs that all place a strong emphasis on education. Despite many changes in these programs, the mission of Elon Homes and Schools for Children has been to provide children in need with a “Safe Haven, Education, and Life Skills,” which will always remain unchanged.
Elon Homes and Schools for Children was founded in Elon, North Carolina as The Christian Orphanage in 1907. In the years following the Civil War, many children in the South were orphans due to the poor post-war conditions. As quoted from A Centennial History 1907-2007 by Don Bolden, “In the chaos of the Civil War’s aftermath, families were in turmoil. Children needed homes.” The disrupted economy, poverty, poor diets, and widespread diseases often left children parentless at a young age. Many groups, including churches and the government, recognized that something needed to be done for these lost children. The 1868 Constitution of North Carolina provides that there shall be “as soon as practicable, measures devised by the state for the establishment of one or more orphan houses, where destitute orphans may be cared for, educated and taught some business or trade.” With an already weak economy, the government could not afford to set up orphanages, placing the responsibility into the hands of private associations, specifically churches. At the 1892 Southern Convention, Reverend W. W. Staley, who was then President of the Southern Christian Convention, pushed for the opening of a Christian orphanage located at Elon College in North Carolina. This marked the beginning of this project. Mrs. J.P. Barrett, former secretary of the Children’s Missions program, had given 65 cents towards an orphanage project. In addition to this money, $4.50 had been donated; with this small amount the project was launched. After several years of planning, fundraising, and capital projects, along with many struggles, the Christian Orphanage was officially opened by Reverend John L. Foster and his wife on January 1, 1907. It received its first child four weeks later, when a 14-year-old girl walked through the doors of the new building.
Over the next 105 years, the institution changed and adapted to address the changing needs of children. It still continues to do this in the present day. The institution has added new buildings and services, and eventually merged with Boys Town in 1986, which is now the Kennedy Campus of the Elon Homes for Children in Charlotte.
Elon’s Family Foster Care Program- Elon Homes and Schools currently provides care services to over 100 children in North Carolina, including children from Alamance, Mecklenburg, Gaston, Lincoln, Iredell, Cabarrus, Rowan, Guilford, Durham, Forsyth, Chatham, and Orange counties. The goal of this program is to provide individualized care for children, youth, and their families. The Specialized Foster Care Program recruits and trains foster parents. The program continues to provide ongoing support and education once a child placement is made. Administrative offices for Foster Care are located in Charlotte and Greensboro. Referrals from any North Carolina Department of Social Services are accepted.
Kids Central of the Carolinas, LLC- This program offers essential behavioral health services, including individual, group, and family psychotherapy, as well as psychological and educational testing and therapeutic services to children and their families. The goal is to teach clients how to set and achieve goals, as well as be able to function effectively as individuals and members of a family and society. Services are available to those within Foster Care or the Kennedy Charter Public School and individuals from the greater Charlotte Mecklenburg community. Kids Central is located on the Kennedy Campus of Elon Homes and Schools. In the past year, Kids Central Therapists have seen approximately 270 clients, with increasing numbers.
Kennedy Charter Public School- This school is a Charlotte-based public school that provides education to K-12 students. These students are at-risk of academic failure in a traditional public school setting, which is usually a consequence of their previous school experiences and disadvantaged economic status. A majority of the students face educational and/or behavioral challenges. Kennedy Charter provides high-risk students by providing a “community-centered school, specially trained teachers, small class size, personalized education plans, psychological, educational and behavioral testing and treatment resources, and an engaging learning environment,” according to Jane Gross, Vice President of Institutional Advancement for Elon Homes and Schools for Children.
Francis Elementary School- This school is part of Kennedy Charter. It is the elementary program of the Kennedy Charter Public School. According to Gross, the school opened three years ago, “largely in response to the substantial research indicating the importance of early educational interventions with young students at risk of academic difficulties.”
At these schools combined, there are 360 students, with 87% receiving free or reduced lunch.
Interactions With Elon University
Elon University has a growing relationship with Elon Homes and Schools for Children. In the past, Elon University has purchased portions of land owned by Elon Homes and Schools for Children. One major purchase is the 70-acres of land that has been used to develop South Campus. Elon’s Alumni Center and the Office of University Advancement, Truitt Hall, and Holt Chapel (all located on South Campus), formerly belonged to Elon Homes and Schools for Children, as well.
Most recently as of June 1, 2012, Elon University purchased the Snyder Campus of Elon Homes and Schools for Children, which housed the Elon School. The 20-acre property contains five buildings including a large central facility, a residential building, gymnasium, two extra classroom and office buildings, and a soccer field. The University’s exact use of this land still remains unknown.
The Elon School facility originally operated as a Christian orphanage in 1907, but legislation soon limited the amount of children that could be housed by the Elon orphanage. Therefore, Elon Homes and Schools for Children had to find other functions for the building. Elon Homes and Schools for Children has operated the Elon School since 2007, but the school changed ownership at the end of this past school year due to Elon Homes divesting the school in 2012. The Elon School is now located on West Davis Street in Burlington, North Carolina and owned by an individual organization.
Elon Homes and Schools for Children continues to grow in the North Carolina area. If interested in getting involved, contact the volunteer coordinator Heidi Hannon at [email protected]
The organization is also grateful for online contributions which can be made here or mailed to P.O. Box 157, Elon, NC, 27244. There is always a need for gifts such as school supplies, art supplies, backpacks, etc.
Additionally, the Kennedy School will receive cash or educational materials through its participation in the following programs: Clip Box Tops from General Mills Products, Campbell's Labels for Education, and VIC donations through Harris Teeter.
Jane Grosse, CRFE, Vice President, Institutional Advancement, Elon Homes and Schools for Children
Elon Homes Website: http://www.elonhomes.org/ElonHomes/index.cfm
Elon Homes Quarterly Newsletter: http://www.elonhomes.org/uploads/Our%20Children%20-%20efriendly.pdf
Book: Building For the Futue With Pride in Our Past: A History of Elon Homes for Children by Alan Keith-Lucas (The official history book of Elon Homes for Children)