WEST CHESTER, PA — There are very few organizations of any kind that can say they have served the community for 200 years. A local nonprofit, based in West Chester and started by Quaker abolitionists in the early 1800s, Friends Association for Care & Protection of Children is celebrating its 200th anniversary this year, and remains strong today, committed to its mission of serving and supporting children and families in need.
In 1822, a Quaker in the city of Philadelphia named Anne Yarnall met with a few friends about how they could help orphaned children in their community. Shortly after, an orphanage was started and in 1829 the organization incorporated. In the years that followed, the ‘shelter’ moved around the city, always with a goal of creating a sense of family. Much of the focus was on health issues as many of the children arrived very sick. During the civil war, a number of the children had parents who were escaping slavery.
In 1915, the organization moved to the country so that children could enjoy ‘fresh air and plenty of playground space’. Three cottages on the campus of Cheyney University were donated to the organization as homes for young African American girls with an emphasis on education and cultural activities.
In 1967, the organization changed its name to the Friends Shelter for Girls. Records show that the cottages fell in disrepair and were eventually sold. They are currently in use as the Thornbury Township Building Complex. In 1974, the organization moved to West Chester and was located at the YMCA until moving to the old Kesher Israel building where an emergency shelter was created in the basement.
In the 1980s the organization moved into the current location on West Chestnut Street and became Friends Association for Care & Protection of Children. By 2010, the organization began providing single furnished apartment units to families experiencing the crisis of homelessness. They made a decision to focus solely on the innovative non-congregant emergency housing model and homelessness prevention efforts to make a greater impact on the community.
Today, 200 years later, Friends Association continues its long tradition of serving the community. As a thriving nonprofit, the organization continues to grow, offering innovative programs and services to prevent homelessness and promote housing justice for all.
In honor of the 200th Anniversary, Friends Association has several activities planned throughout the year including a Friends Family Reunion on June 12th 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm at the Chester County History Center. Friends is inviting the community to gather together in honor of this important milestone.
Information, tickets, and sponsorship details can be found on their website. Tickets include access to the History Center Museum and as always, parking is free in West Chester on Sundays. This event is sponsored in part by Malvern Bank.
To bring awareness to the community-wide impact incarceration and reentry have on women in Chester County, Friends Association has invited Ms. Susan Burton to participate in a virtual event on Thursday, May 12, 2022, from 7:00 pm – 8:00 pm. This event is held in partnership with Chester County OIC and Chester County Adult Probation, Parole & Pretrial Services and is free to the public. Ms. Burton founded the nationally acclaimed reentry program for women, A New Way of Life, in 1998 after being enmeshed in the cycle of mass incarceration for nearly two decades. From its humble beginnings as a single reentry home in South Los Angeles, A New Way of Life has grown into a holistic reentry program and has provided housing to over 1,200 formerly incarcerated women, helped reunite more than 400 women with their children, and provided pro bono legal services to more than 3,400 community members with conviction histories. Registration is available here. Donations will support Friends Association’s work with formerly incarcerated women in Chester County.
To formally commemorate the 200th Anniversary, Friends Association has commissioned a mural to be painted on its office building in West Chester. This public arts project is projected to begin in early summer 2022 and will establish a permanent artistic representation of the organization’s belief that housing is a human right, and everyone is deserving of a safe, secure home.
Friends Association provides programs and services in Chester County that Promote Change, Prevent Homelessness, Provide Emergency Shelter, and Partner for Stability. To learn more, visit www.friendsassoc.org.
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