Concordia's Humble Beginnings (part 2)

August 30, 2011

In celebration of Concordia's 130th anniversary of service, we're periodically posting excerpts from our history book, along with some historical pictures of the organization. Additionally, each issue of our magazine, called Faith in Caring, for this year will feature a page on our continually shaping history.

The excerpt below touches on some of the financial hardships the home for orphans went through, along with some of the administrative difficulties that came with the remote location of the facility. Feel free to comment, call us at 724.352.1571 or e-mail us if you have any questions and enjoy!

...As important as all this was, it would be impossible to put a value on the personal time and effort that went into overseeing the Home and its operations as well as ensuring the physical and spiritual well being of its residents. Pastors and delegates devoted countless hours before, during and after meetings to ensure the Home's mission was accomplished. The relative remoteness of the Home's location, however, complicated their endeavors. In the early days, just getting to the Home was a tedious journey by horse and buggy, even longer by train because that also involved a mile's walk.

Monthly meetings were held in Pittsburgh, and all of the administrative functions were handled here. It was only much later that these duties were managed directly from the Home and its personnel.

The trustees, reflecting their German heritage, were nothing if not highly organized and true sticklers when it came to doing things "by the book." They had a highly developed sense of duty that precluded delegating much of their responsibilities to others. Indeed, decision-making for even the most minor issues related to the Home needed to be resolved at the monthly Board meetings, following the rules of order. In later years, it was very difficult to reconcile this sense of duty to investing the superintendents with some decision-making authority.

As the care for orphan and dependent children was considered mission work by the church, the Home's Board met at the same time as the Committee on Mission Work, an arrangement that continued for many decades. They took their responsibilities very seriously because of how a child normally entered the Home. A parent would sign an official Orphanage Agreement wherein he or she would relinquish the child to "sole and entire control" of the Home. They also agreed "not to interfere in any manner directly or indirectly with the [child's] future management or education..." A parent could reclaim a child if their circumstances changed (for example, if they remarried and could once again provide a stable Christian home). However, this entailed another formal process of applying to the Board's "Committee on Releases."

The committee had high standards, however, and very often refused to return a child. Children had to be at least 2 1/2 years old to enter and were released when they turned 18. Parents could visit their children, but they needed to get permission first. In addition, parents were asked to pay a certain amount towards the child's board.

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