Thursday, May 28, 2015

Quietly Helping our Neediest Children for 50 Years

Ever heard of the Hawley Foundation? I bet most Saratogians haven't, but they've been changing lives in our community for 50 years. And they do it because they care and with no expectation of recognition.

Wellspring's Maggie Fronk and Hawley Foundation's
 Board President Pam Polascek
For many years the Hawley Foundation has  provided funding so Wellspring can  provide: clothing, basic necessities, social and recreational programs for children, and summer camperships so children can be safe while their moms (or dads) remain employed, building a new life free of abuse.

Last night I was privileged to attend the Hawley Foundation's awards ceremony. While I was pleased  to  receive on behalf of Wellspring a generous gift from Hawley to support  the youth we assist, it was even more heartwarming to hear the history and impact of the Hawley Foundation on our community. In 1888 Augusta P. Wiggins began caring for orphaned children; her example led other Saratogians to join with her and for 16 years they and provided homes for orphaned children. In 1904, they secured a building for an orphanage, the Hawley Home. The orphanage closed its doors after 61 years, but the Foundation continues to support local agencies that serve the neediest children in Saratoga County.

A couple of years ago, former Mayor Scott Johnson told me a story about the Hawley Foundation's history that demonstrated what for the time period was a very progressive approach.  In those days when a family relinquished a child to an orphanage the parents gave up all their rights to the children. The Hawley Home, however, understood that sometimes parents loved their children but simply couldn't afford to rear them... so they let the parents and children maintain their relationship. Maybe a parent had died and the remaining parent had to work so could not care for the children, and placed them in the Hawley Home. They could still visit and hopefully in time the financial circumstances would improve so the children could return home. In the helping professions we often talk about "meeting people where they're at"; the Hawley Foundation was doing that long before trendy jargon popularized this concept.

What an impact they've made! In the past 15 years alone they've donated $2 million to local youth-serving organizations... but the real measure of success is how many families and children they've assisted. Last night one former resident of the Hawley Home was there with his wife. Decades later he's a passionate supporter of the Hawley Foundation because he knows what a difference they made back then... and continue to make today.