New Counseling & Enrichment Center, renaming of cottage
Kevin R. Jenkins, firstname.lastname@example.org
Saturday was such a big day for Presbyterian Children’s Homes and Services (PCHAS) in Farmington that the non-profit held not one, but two ribbon-cutting ceremonies for an event that had as its main focus the grand opening of its new Counseling and Enrichment Center.
In addition to the new building, which is the result of a major renovation of the former children’s orphanage’s gymnasium, PCHAS held a ribbon-cutting at a cottage on campus named in honor of a longtime employee, now retired, who returned with his wife for the ceremony.
Around 50 people who gathered in the Counseling and Enrichment Center’s meeting room were greeted by Peter Crouch, vice president of development for PCHAS.
“I wish I could say five years ago, eight years ago, that I saw the vision of what this building could be,” he said. “There were smarter minds than mine, and they said this could really be a really neat office complex for the program. And so, the staff have worked hard to get the building as beautiful as it appears.”
After leading the attendees in prayer, Crouch introduced Robert Giegling, vice president of programs for PCHAS, who gave a brief history of the Farmington campus.
“It was in 1914, right here in Farmington, that Presbyterian Children’s Services of Missouri started,” he said. “It started as an orphanage, and if you all have been here a long time, you know back then, a lot of lead mining was going on, and therefore kids were being orphaned. And so, some folks that had good hearts and good souls and some Presbyterian ministers started an orphanage — Presbyterian Children’s Orphanage.
“They moved out here to the old farm campus. The kids did farming. There was livestock, and there were plants and corn and tomatoes and all that kind of stuff. But over the years, there was less need for orphanages. The whole social services, child welfare began — not only in Missouri — but across the United States. And so that meant kids that were in the state custody of Missouri needed places to go. And so PCHAS on this campus evolved into a residential treatment center, and it operated for years. The cottages that are there today housed kids. This building was the gymnasium for the kids on the campus.”
Giegling went on to say that, in the middle of 2019, PCHAS closed its residential treatment program in St. Francois County and opened the Farmington Service Center with the goal of addressing community needs such as under-employment, a high dropout rate and family instability. Seven evidence-based programs were put into effect to strengthen families and cultivate self-sufficiency. They are Therapeutic Mentoring; Child and Family, Community Counseling; Single-parent family; Transitional Living, Level 3 Residential, and Youth Outreach.
He concluded his historical overview by explaining that PCHAS works with more Farmington residents today than when it was an orphanage because most of the orphans in those days came from St. Louis, Springfield and other large cities in the state — not the town of Farmington.
Next, Regional Director Caren Mell addressed the crowd, saying, “I want to thank you all for coming this morning to celebrate our open house. And it’s kind of a homecoming to our staff because we’ve been housed over at Liberty Hall for the last four years. And there’s so many times that staff was saying, ‘We can’t wait to get back over there to our campus.’ We really missed it.
“And for those of us who’ve been around for a long time, we have a sense that this is where we belong. The memories we have of the residents that have lived here, the struggles they faced, the heartaches we all shared with them, the battles we fought together, many times for social justice in our legal system, will always stay with us. It seems so fitting that Lyle [Gramling] is here to share this day with us and that we can honor him by dedicating the Ashley-Gramling Cottage in his name.”
After Mell introduced her staff and a closing prayer was given, the crowd moved outside for the first of the ribbon-cutting ceremonies in recognition of the Counseling and Enrichment Center.
Prior to moving over to the Ashley-Gramling Cottage for the next ribbon-cutting, Giegling said a few words about Gramling as the retiree and his wife Judy stood by his side.
“Lyle has literally worked for the agency for 45 years,” he said. “Lyle worked in Farmington, and Lyle worked in Moberly, and Lyle worked in Springfield, and Lyle worked in Farmington again, and Lyle worked in St. Louis. So, Lyle has done pretty much all for the agency. And his lovely wife Judy was with him every step of the way. For the majority of his time with us, Lyle was working as a program person. You know, he was a houseparent, he was a director of this, and he was a case manager of that. And then, when I came to the agency, Lyle had become the HR guy. He stopped doing programming, and he started being HR. He was a great employee, but what really matters most is that he’s an outstanding person.
“It was called Asher Cottage for many years. Mr. Asher was previously one of the longest-serving members of the staff, and Lyle exceeded him by about 12 years, and so is now the longest-serving member of the PCHAS staff of Texas, Missouri, and Louisiana. It doesn’t matter where you go in PCHAS. Lyle has served longer than anyone else. When he retired, we said we were going to name the building after him. Mr. Asher and the Asher family said, ‘That’s wonderful.’ They were very delighted. He’s been very patient for us to get the sign on the building and actually dedicate the building in his honor. So, thank you for your patience.”