Long before child welfare hotlines and Amber Alerts, children could count on a safe refuge at the Home for Little Wanderers in St. Joseph.
The name has changed, but today the Noyes Home for Children still provides a caring and nurturing environment inside the same imposing brick building at 801 N. Noyes Blvd. As the Noyes Home prepares to celebrate its 125th anniversary, we are hard pressed to think of an organization that’s more well-regarded in St. Joseph.
The original benefactor, Charles Noyes, asked that no child be turned away. Today, the nonprofit organization still honors that request at a time when children and families face increasing stress from poverty and homelessness. State statistics show that 1 in 4 Buchanan County children lived in poverty from 2013 to 2017, which was higher than the statewide rate.
The Noyes Home provides 24-hour care for children up to 18 years, including a nursery for newborns. Executive Director Chelsea Howlett told News-Press NOW that many children come from families facing an immediate crisis where they cannot provide for a child’s basic needs.
The facility is able to serve roughly 35 children and youth at any given time, with a focus on those in need of emergency shelter, referrals from parents who face a short-term crisis, foster care placements and behavioral intervention referrals. Admissions are not authorized for children with severe behavioral problems or violent offenses.
Oftentimes, the benefit of this welcoming environment becomes apparent years down the road. On the organization’s website, an 83-year-old man who lives in Wisconsin credited the Noyes Home with providing food, clothing and support when he lived in St. Joseph in the 1930s. “My wonderful life is because I was taken in and given a great start,” he said. “Without Noyes Home, where would I be?”
This kind of public benefit comes despite limited taxpayer funding and a heavy reliance on donations. Expenses exceeded $2.3 million in the 2017 tax year, according to IRS documents, which prompts a need for fundraising and community support.
The organization plans a major fundraising event Saturday, Aug. 24, at the Civic Arena, with a goal of generating up to $200,000. Before that, the Noyes Homes plans a block party and kickball game today, July 19, to mark its 125th anniversary.
Most likely, Charles Noyes didn’t envision kickball when he and Sarepta Noyes conceived of a home to benefit youth in difficult circumstances during St. Joseph’s early days. Chances are, he wouldn’t be surprised to hear about the good work that still goes on at 801 N. Noyes Boulevard.