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A Hundred & ‘Change’
Thompson Child & Family Focus celebrates 125 years
of life-changing care for children with event at St. Mary’s Chapel, Sept. 10
Charlotte, N.C., Sept. 6, 2011 – Lupie Duran often escapes from the hustle and bustle of her landmark Lupie’s Café to a tree-shaded spot at St. Mary’s Chapel near uptown Charlotte for quiet reflection and reading. “It’s a beautiful setting that holds special memories from my teen years at Thompson Orphanage – huddling with my girlfriends on the lawn just outside our cottage trading gossip and sharing secrets,” said Duran, who was at Thompson from 1965 - 71.
Al Queen, past president of the Thompson Orphanage Alumni Association for 26 years, has organized many reunions at St. Mary’s for the ‘family’ he grew up with at the orphanage from 1957-65. “This place changed my life, and I’ve tried to live the way I was taught here – to be responsible and treat others with love and respect.”
Today, St. Mary’s Chapel, the lone structural legacy of the original Thompson Orphanage, is home to weddings and new beginnings. From 1886 until 1969, it offered a new start for society’s most vulnerable children, serving as a beacon of hope and stability for those who came to this orphanage founded by the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina. (In 1970, the orphanage moved to a site near Matthews, N.C., home of today’s St. Peter’s Lane campus)
Returning to its roots, Thompson Child & Family Focus will mark its 125-year anniversary with a Family Fun Day at St. Mary’s Chapel from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sat., Sept. 10. Children and families served by Thompson, along with staff, volunteers and community friends, will gather for child-and-family friendly celebratory activities.
Note to Editors: News media are invited to cover the event. The event is not open to the general public, due to capacity limits. Rain plan: Event will be held in the gym at Thompson’s St. Peter’s Lane Campus (6800 Saint Peter’s Lane off Margaret Wallace Road)
Thompson, which shares its founding year with the dedication of the Statue of Liberty, the icon of hope for the “huddled masses,” opened its doors to the homeless, deserted and destitute children from across the state. For 83 years, children came to live, worship, work and play on 72 acres of land that eventually included a self-supporting farm, chapel and orphanage.
Situated on land now occupied by Metropolitan shops and restaurants near uptown Charlotte to the still-standing St. Mary’s Chapel on Fourth St., Thompson provided love, stability and guidance that helped children prepare for their futures.
Recalls restaurateur Duran: “Lillie Mae, who cooked and loved the kids at Thompson for 40-plus years, taught me a lot about food but a whole lot more about life. From her, I learned how to be my best.”
Queen says the duties that went along with living on a working farm – including milking cows and operating the machinery – instilled in him and others a sense of confidence and maturity that helped him succeed later in life.
Much has changed in the physical structure and complexity of Thompson’s services since the early days of this orphanage. And yet, one of its founding principles – to offer new life and promising futures to children in need – remains intact, reflected in the children and families whose lives continue to be transformed by today’s Thompson.
Last year, Thompson helped improve the lives of more than 12,000 at-risk children and families. From three campuses with distinctive programs and goals, Thompson provides intensive clinical and behavioral treatment, developmental education and proactive care.
Societal needs and child welfare best-practices have guided the evolution of Thompson since Lupie Duran and Al Queen lived at the orphanage. In the mid-to-late 1960s, there was a shift toward family rehabilitation and clinical treatment versus the traditional custodial care concept of an orphanage.
By the early 1970s, the population at Thompson began to include children whose lives had been disrupted by abuse, mental illness and neglect. They arrived at Thompson with extensive needs that required a therapeutic approach to help them heal from early childhood trauma. To that end, the first cottage for the treatment of emotionally disturbed children opened in 1975 on the present-day St. Peter’s Lane Campus in Matthews.
Today, the St. Peter’s Lane Campus is one of the state’s most respected psychiatric residential treatment centers serving children (ages five to 13 or 15) who have been severely traumatized by physical or sexual abuse, exposure to domestic violence, substance abuse or long-term neglect.
While the children and families served today by Thompson Child & Family Focus have vastly different needs than those who first came to Thompson in the early 20th century, the commitment to provide hope and healing mirrors the founding vision of the Episcopal Church.
“Sadly, recent news headlines about child abuse and even death confirm that our work is ever-increasing. Too many families are caught up in turmoil and innocent children continue to suffer the horrific consequences,” said Ginny Amendum, president of Thompson.
“We face the future through the strength of our past; however, we are here in more wide-ranging ways – on the preventive end to support and educate families before life becomes insurmountable and on the treatment side to heal and restore the lives of hurting children. “With the help and love of Thompson, Lupie and Al built happy and successful lives – and we believe this is the birthright of all who come to rest within the Thompson Family today and tomorrow.”
Thompson Key Milestones:
- 1886 – Thompson Orphanage and Training Institute established by Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina; first children arrive on May 7, 1887.
- 1895 – Consecration of The Memorial Chapel of St. Mary the Virgin
- 1924 – $150,000 building campaign launched to add three cottages, laundry, administration building, and central heating plant.
- 1940 – A childless couple, M.D (“Pop”) and Pearl (“Mom”) Whisnant, hired to run the orphanage for 25 years. The Whisnants created a family environment that extends to this day through the Thompson Orphanage Alumni Association and in the agency-wide culture of today’s Thompson.
- 1962 – During its 75th anniversary year, Thompson administration notes the shift toward increased family rehabilitation as well as the news that the agency’s future plans called for a move “to the country.”
- 1970 – St. Peter’s Lane Campus opens. The Thompson Orphanage relocates from uptown Charlotte to the 40-acre Cedarbrook Farm near Matthews (off Margaret Wallace Road and Independence Blvd at 6800 St. Peter’s Lane)
- 1996 – Current Thompson president Ginny Amendum is recruited to open the first Thompson Child Development Center in the North Davidson (NoDa) area of Charlotte. The five-star center was a partnership between Success by Six, the Junior League and the YMCA.
- 2008 – Thompson merges with the Family Center, bringing all operations under the Thompson umbrella. The collaboration served to consolidate duplicate services and provide highly specialized care in the most cost effective manner.
- 2009 – A successful $10 million capital campaign helps open a new Early Childhood Services Center off West Blvd., and four new cottages at St. Peter’s Lane Campus.
- May 2011 – Thompson Annual Luncheon raises $1.3 million to mark its 125-year anniversary
Thompson Child and Family Focus Today
It takes a budget of $17 million, and some 300 employees and 1,500 volunteers combined, to meet the needs of an ever-growing population of fragile children and families across North Carolina. Much of Thompson’s financial support comes from private funding through generous community partners and individual donors.
Thompson is a leading provider of effective clinical and behavioral treatment, developmental education, and proactive care for at-risk children and families. All programs at the agency’s three campuses are nationally accredited:
- The St. Peter’s Lane campus in Matthews houses Thompson’s psychiatric residential treatment center for children with serious mental illnesses stemming from horrific early childhood traumas, most often involving violent abuse and/or long-term neglect. The campus also houses The School at Thompson for residential some community children, and the main administration offices. With eight cottages, Thompson serves up to 60 children, ages five to 15.
- The Clanton Road campus in West Charlotte houses the Thompson Child Development Center, which provides developmental and preventive programming for young children (infants to age 5) and their families, through diverse educational and therapeutic resources. This campus also includes the Early Childhood OUTREACH Services Department, which provides support and mentor relationships for other early childhood programs across Mecklenburg, Union, and Cabarrus counties.
- The 7th Street campus near uptown Charlotte houses an array of community services including outpatient counseling, foster care services, school-based and in- home intervention therapy, and family education. These services are designed to “wrap around” and support children and families living in the community who need a variety of mental health services.
For more information about Thompson, please visit www.thompsoncff.org