It has been 20 years that Faith, Hope & Charity has been providing loving care and compassion for special needs children at their current location. The anniversary will be marked on Wednesday.
The dedication of the present Faith, Hope & Charity took place in September of 1985 which included prayers by local ministers, songs by school children and an inspirational talk by actor-turned-Congressman Fred Grandy.
Referring to the lyrics of the song "Tomorrow" from the Broadway hit "Annie," he noted, "For 32 kids, this is their tomorrow and the sun will come out because of you."
That it has. The children that call Faith, Hope & Charity home are happy, well-cared for and very much loved by the dedicated caretakers.
From the first notion that a home for children with profound special needs be built, that was the intention; just ask Rose Faine Blair and Mary Smith, mothers of special needs daughters who along with their husbands came up with the concept nearly 20 years prior to the construction of the current facility.
That's where the history really begins. The couples loved their special needs daughters - Brenda Faine and Becky Smith very much, as did their older siblings. But reality told them that they needed to be in a special home for them as their needs increasingly grew. "Find a nice institution for your babies," they were told - but that was out of the question. The couples had visited the facilities available at that time and those did not meet the guidelines they were looking for for their own children.
It just so happened that back in 1967, Mike Smith was auctioning a house on Ontario Street in need of great repair. Dr. Fred Faine made a bid on the house and became the proud owner. It wasn't until a short time later that the idea came to him to fix up the house and "make it a home for our Brenda and others like her needing special care."
And so the vision was born.
Much work was needed to prepare the house and much legal work was needed as well. Volunteers galore stepped in to help. A board of directors was established and Faith, Hope & Charity of Storm Lake, Iowa, Inc. was created.
The name was created by Dr. Faine. "Faith in our hearts, hope in the future and charity, the provider," was the philosophy.
Brenda Faine became the first resident of the home on July 6, 1968; soon Becky Smith and three others followed.
Luella Tryon was the house mother and provided 24-hour care to the children.
"When the kids moved there, I knew they would be safe and whatever God gave them, I knew there would be tender loving care," said Mary.
The board of directors met many challenges in determining how to best meet the needs of the children. A therapy wing was added with several people from the community volunteering their time. The first set of house parents was hired in 1970 to be "mom and dad" in the family setting.
Dr. Faine was killed in a plane accident in 1972 but the board stepped in to fulfill his vision.
By 1975, Faith, Hope & Charity Inc. was directed to hire an administrator and a physical therapist.
With the need to provide educational services, a relationship was established with Arrowhead Education Agency and a building north of the house was purchased, connected and converted to a school. It was envisioned then that eventually the school program would move to the public schools.
In 1978, three more kids came to the home which called for additional housing. The "east" home - the Church of Christ Educational Building on Cayuga Street - was leased. This new home provided eight more children the opportunity.
Talk to consider expanding, to allow more children to be a part of this innovative idea began three years later.
Board members were thrilled in 1983 when an addition to East School was passed to allow the education of children with disabilities. The Faith, Hope & Charities residents had the opportunity to take part.
On the 15th anniversary of the organization of the facility, the board made the decision to fully commit themselves to building a new facility. The concept would involve four "cottages", each serving as a home for eight children, organized around an administrative unit.
The purpose was simple - to enhance Faith, Hope & Charity's mission of personal nurturing and attention in a family atmosphere.
The cost of the facility was expected to be close to $1 million - a huge undertaking at the time.
Many, many people came up to the plate and made their donations for the facility.
Mary Smith and Rose Faine Blair talked about how they felt about the decision to go bigger and more advanced.
"I thought they were out of their mind," said Rose.
"I had this vision of a tin quanset building," added Mary.
But, then when the current facility was complete, and the women received a tour, along with the many others, they were totally flabbergasted so very pleased.
"It was beyond my wildest dreams," said Mary. "I never thought this would be the result of our little home."
The current facility has room for 32 children, eight in each of four "homes" - Faith, Hope, Charity and Love - in a unique interior neighborhood concept.
Each of the homes has a kitchen and living room area as well as a bed room for each of the children; a far cry from an institutional setting.
The size has not increased but there have been noticeable additions. A community services program was added which includes a respite care program. This program allows special needs children living with parents or foster parents to take part in weekend "slumber parties" at Faith, Hope & Charity, giving parents well-deserved breaks and providing fun and friendship for the children.
Courage Park, Rainbow Walking Path and a wonderful gazebo were added on the outside of FHC giving the kids an enjoyable outdoor setting.
Today's budget to operate the facility is $3.5 million, in comparison to the 1967 budget of $21,000. There is now a staff of 150.
Mary Ludwig, director of FHC, is thrilled with the progress FHC has made over the nearly 40 years. And she praises Mary and Rose for their innovative thinking.
"You two started a huge thing in this community and the state of Iowa," said the director. "Recently we had some parents from central Iowa bring their child to Storm Lake because they found Faith, Hope & Charity to be the most welcoming and best place for their child to grow up. That says a lot for what the two of you started."
Mary Smith responded, "We had the dream, they [the community and its dedicated citizens] made it a reality."
The two women enjoy visiting Faith, Hope & Charity and are active members of the FHC Auxiliary.
And what of the two girls that the home was developed for back in 1967?
Brenda Faine, now 46, resides at Howard Center in Sac City and unfortunately, Becky Smith passed away at the age of 9. Their photos remain on the wall at FHC.
Faith, Hope & Charity will celebrate 20 years Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. at the 1815 West Milwaukee location, during Chamber Coffee. Everyone is invited.