Cincinnati’s oldest social services
agency, St. Joseph Orphanage
, will celebrate its 185th anniversary April 30 at its Spring for the Stars Gala
The organization’s longevity, according to Executive Director Eric Cummins, can be attributed to its ability to adapt to the changing needs of the community.
“We started as a traditional orphanage that took care of kids when their parents died,” Cummins says. “And then in the 1940s, ‘50s and ‘60s, we worked with families when they could not take care of their kids and helped get them back on their feet so the kids could go home.”
During that time, Cummins says the nonprofit also helped children find their “forever homes,” as the orphanage began morphing into more of a residential facility that provided a home for older adolescents with nowhere to go.
“St Joseph’s role is vital in that we truly embrace working with those who have nowhere else to turn,” he says. “We’re one of the only local agencies that continues to serve youth after they turn 18 years old, as we believe they are still too young to be out on their own.”
St. Joseph Orphanage began operating as a mental health residential treatment facility in the 1980s, and since that time it’s grown into a “community-based mental health, education and foster care provider,” Cummins says, with a recently developed special education class geared toward helping children with autism.
“We strive to continuously grow and adapt to meet the needs of those we serve today and into the future,” he says.
It’s an important mission, according to Cummins, because St. Joseph Orphanage provides critical services to the most at-risk youth in the community.
Though it’s hard to choose just one impactful moment, Cummins says something that stuck with him this past year is an e-mail he received from one of the Orphanage’s case managers.
“She emailed me just to say how thankful she is to work for St Joe’s, as we — through the generous donations of the community — make sure every child has a Christmas gift,” he says. “She went on to tell me that these siblings — 12, 11, 9 and 8 (years-old) — had never before opened a Christmas gift and this was the first time in their life that they had been able to celebrate Christmas.”
Prior to their first Christmas, the children had spent their time living with severe trauma, locked in a room with a bucket to tend to personal needs.
“They are now living in and being loved in a St. Joseph Orphanage foster home, getting case management and therapy services,” Cummins says. “I was truly thankful that not only could we make sure they had a Christmas present one day a year but that St. Joseph is there to help them every week of the year going forward.”
• Support St. Joseph Orphanage by registering
for the Spring Gala, which takes place at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, April 30, at the Hilton Netherland Plaza Hotel downtown.
• If you can't attend Thursday's celebration, you can still donate here
• If you're unable to financially support St. Joseph, contact
the organization to share your time and talents as a volunteer.