For four decades, Pendleton Place has been looking out for abused and neglected children. In recent years, the nonprofit has worked to identify gaps in child welfare and domestic violence services and now also supports the entire family, equipping them with the skills to rebuild and stay together.
Starting from scratch
Colorado resident Sheila Lee, 79, remembers when she was living in Greenville and as a member of the Junior League, assisting in the search for a project to benefit the entire community.
After Lee and friends Tunkie Riley, Charlotte Sloan and Caroline Johnstone talked with members of law enforcement and the Department of Social Services, “we found out there was a huge need for a halfway house for abused and battered children,” said Lee.
Children had no safe place to stay when they were removed from their homes, she said. “The further we got [in research], the greater the project burned in our hearts. And that’s why we started Pendleton Place.”
The group set out to raise funds, tapping into local resources. Lee’s husband worked in textile sales and they knew plenty of people in the corporate world, she said.
“None of us seemed to have any problem begging for money,” she said. They also discovered contacts through their husbands, then-legislator Dick Riley, businessman Ned Sloan and attorney Johnny Johnstone.
“We just started it and it just built … people have a compassion for children and their needs,” she said.
Within two years, the women had raised enough funds to launch Pendleton Place in 1975. A three-story home was established that could house 13 children.
Filling the need
As the need grew, local bank executive Wilbur Bridgers helped create an endowment and launched a fundraising effort for a larger facility, which opened in 2000. The building was dedicated to him in 2008.
“Pendleton Place was created by the community for the community,” said Executive Director Laurie Rovin. “Through the years we have provided a safe home, ensured access to education and medical care. Today, we have diversified our services to better produce long-term impact by supporting the needs of the child and their family.”
Looking back on what she helped to start, Lee said, “I think it’s fabulous. It’s been a project that has been blessed.”
The need for supporting children and young people still exists, she said. “If we can just capture them [young people] and help them on a path to success and rightful living, then that’s what we need to be doing.”
Assessment Center: Multiple agencies evaluate families to identify the root causes of neglect or abuse and recommend changes for improving the well-being of children.
Connections Count: Support and mentoring for young adults.
Family Bridges: Safe custody exchange, parent education and supervised visitation.
Smith House: Residential home for teen girls.
Two success stories
Shambray, 21, learned about the Connections Count program through a friend. She was living with her mother, she says, but had no transportation or job. After three weeks in the program, she found one.
“After that everything started falling into place,” she said. Pendleton Place helped her with supplies, clothes and diapers for her five-month-old baby when she wasn’t working. Now, after almost a year in the program, Shambray has steady work and is ready to return to school.
“I just needed that push and extra hand that I knew someone was there to help me. If there’s anything I needed help with, it was there,” she said. She’s considering studying criminal justice and pursuing work as a probation officer.
“A lot of things have changed in eight months,” she said. “Without them, I don’t think I would have gotten this far.”
While she was in the eighth grade, Sierra lived at Pendleton Place for several months after leaving a foster home placement that didn’t work out.
The staff helped Sierra to learn about manners, work skills, teamwork and taking responsibility by doing chores, she said. Pendleton Place staff “allowed me to see my family a lot, to where it wasn’t that hard to be away.”
She helped care for the younger children and especially enjoyed painting with a visiting artist. “All the staff were really nice and it felt like I was with family,” she said.
When she was due to be moved to a different home, Sierra wrote a letter petitioning to stay, she said. She lived at Pendleton Place for nearly four months and then went to live with her grandmother.
Now 17 and a senior in high school, Sierra said, “Pendleton Place by far was the best experience I had within a DSS-ordered home. At first it was hard being taken away from my family and that was horrible, but I do not regret the experience I had [at Pendleton Place] and I wouldn’t take it back.”
“They were very kind and very inspiring to her,” said Sierra’s grandmother Laurie.
“The staff was fabulous and I won’t forget my experience there – and it did change my life,” Sierra said.
Lend a hand // Pendleton Place can always use volunteers and donations. Visit pendletonplace.org to learn more.