On October 18th, 1790, The City Council of Charleston passed an ordinance establishing an orphanage, "For the purpose of supporting and educating poor orphan children and those of poor and disabled parents who are unable to support them." Charleston Orphan House was the first public institution for children in the United States. Exactly four years after the ordinance was signed, on October 18th, 1794, the doors were opened to one hundred and fifteen (115) children. Today, the 6300-pound bell that once served as the fire bell for the City of Charleston hangs in front of the Pavilion on our campus and rings three times each day.
Agnes K. Irving served for 41 years as the first superintendent of the Orphan House. She sheltered the children from harm, from man-made and natural disasters, including the evacuation of the children to Orangeburg for two years during the Civil War, while the Union troops used the Orphan House as an infirmary.
From its early days there was a focus to train children in vocational skills to ensure that they became self-sufficient and independent citizens. Over the years, services and programs have evolved to include an array of residential and community services to meet the changing needs of a vast population of children and their families. We hold to the value of preparing young people for independent living through the career and vocational services offered in our Linda and Tony Bakker Career Center.
Queyondra is our most recent graduate, and we are so proud of her! Que came to us from a foster home in 2010. She was aging out of care and needed independent living skills. Staff enrolled her in Wando High and after two years, she graduated. While attending Wando, she completed the independent living skills curriculum in our Bakker Career Center. She also completed our Digital Connectors Program, which is sponsored by Comcast, and was a Youth Consultant with our Transitions Through Technology program. With a grand farewell party sponsored by staff, Que moved into her own apartment earlier this month and is working and living independently. She is awaiting acceptance into Post University, an online college.
See below for Que's thoughts on her time here at CYDC:
My journey started here August of 2010; I would like to thank my CYDC family for all you guys have done for me since day one. CYDC has taught me a lot especially when it came to the independent living skills, which I now value in every day life. I want to give a special thanks to every staff that served their purpose in their own way when it came to my needs and wants in my life. Thank you guys for preparing me for what the real world has to offer. Ms Thawanna - continue to do a great job as Residential Manager; I hope someone else will learn from you just as I did. I enjoyed the bond that we have; it is indeed a type of mother daughter bond that I cherished during my stay at CYDC. Throughout my whole two years at Ledford I can honestly say that I didn't have any bad encounters with you. I am indeed blessed that I have you in my life. I enjoyed my long term stay at the Ledford house because it taught me more responsibility, gave me encouragement in my time of struggle and just made me into the wonderful person I am today. I wouldn't call it a good-bye because I visit CYDC daily after work. I really feel like CYDC is my home, not because of the placement but because of the staff that made me feel like I was somebody and very important by any means necessary. I know it wasn't home but CYDC made me feel just as comfortable with all the love and support that was extended on my behalf. I have learned plenty valuable lessons while living there and I plan on helping others just as CYDC helped me. I can honestly say that CYDC built my inspiration into returning to school for my degree in childcare. It is truly my passion to help other kids and show them that extra love that may be needed just as my CYDC family has shown me. I extend a great thank you, CYDC, for building me into such a passionate young adult.
Our work in the Bakker Center brings full circle the mission of the Charleston Orphan House to support and educate the vulnerable children and youth in our communities.
In honor of the former Boards of Commissioners and the more recent Boards of Directors, we celebrate our history and thank each of you for your unwavering support of our children for 222 years!
Barbara Kelley Duncan
Chief Executive Officer