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Fund of the Providence Shelter for Colored Children
By Jean Cohoon / April 10, 2015 /   Loading Disqus...
For more than 100 years, the Providence Shelter for Colored Children provided a safe haven for Black children. “The Shelter has an interesting history.” says Mary Santos Lima who has served on the nonprofit’s board for more than three decades. “In the late 1800s it was the only facility, state or otherwise, that served as a shelter for Black children.”

“Throughout its history as a home for children, the Shelter was a place where parents who were working at ‘the big houses’ on Prospect and College Hill could board their children; the children’s parents were expected to be there 24/7, but kids weren’t welcome,” continues Connie Worthington, who has served with Mary and is now the Shelter board’s vice president.

Mary Barrett remembers her grandmother, Elizabeth Davies Eyre, helping the Shelter in the 1920s. “She was a Quaker (a group of Quaker women founded the Shelter in 1838) and was interested in helping people. The children were treated to an annual hay ride at my grandparents’ farm, and my grandmother would take her grandchildren along. They were a lot of fun,” Mary recalls. Mary later served on the Shelter board, as had her mother, and as her son, John, does currently.

Changes in child welfare laws meant fewer children were living at the Shelter by the 1940s and, in 1951, the Shelter closed its doors. Its building on Olive Street – it earlier was located on North Main Street, followed by Wickenden Street – was sold and the proceeds established a grantmaking foundation. Early beneficiaries included the Urban League, John Hope Settlement House, Lippitt Hill Tutorial, and Mount Hope Day Care Center.

Linda Cline, the Shelter board’s president, notes, “There are so many organizations that need financial assistance in order to thrive, in order to be viable.” The Shelter now provides a greater number of nonprofits with grants that generally range from $1,000 to $5,000.

In partnering with the Foundation, Linda says, “We’ve often thought about what this organization would look like in perpetuity. Our legacy always will be to help children of color.”
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