D.A. Blodgett-St. John’s, the oldest child welfare nonprofit in the region, has announced the opening of a $13.9 million headquarters facility. The 136-year-old organization impacts 14,000 people annually, but what is it exactly? How did it start?
In the later part of the 1800s, a wave of epidemics swept the area leaving many Grand Rapids children orphaned and homeless. The young residents, alone and malnourish, begged for money in the streets. Some of the city’s more fortunate residents banded together to solve the orphan problem. Two women in particular –Jennie Blodgett and Emily Clark – worked to form the Children’s Aid Society, located at 42 Lafayette.
In 1887, the Blodgett – Clark project commenced. Funding came from Jennie’s husband, Delos Abiel Blodgett, and so the D.A. Blodgett Home for Children was formed. Not far away, just down the street at the corner of Leonard, the Bishop’s St. John’s Orphan Asylum was under construction, and opened its doors in 1889.
A 2010 merger brought together D.A. Blodgett for Children and St. John’s Home into one entity, and nearly a century and a half since it began, has put it all under one roof.
The 43,000-square-foot headquarters is located on a 36-acre wooded campus located at 2172 Dean Lake Ave. NE. The new two-story building serves as the nonprofit’s administrative hub, integrating all child and family services into one location. New features include an expanded programming space, administrative offices, health and family clinic, community meeting space, gymnasium and educational and wellness space for the children and families supported by the organization.
It’s estimated that approximately $2m will be saved over the next two decades by consolidating operations into one central facility.