Elon University has agreed to purchase the Snyder Campus of CHHSM ministry Elon Homes and Schools for Children, located adjacent to the university's campus in Elon, N.C. The two institutions jointly announced the purchase agreement on June 1. Ownership of the 20-acre property, which includes five buildings, will change hands at the end of August 2012.
This purchase is the latest chapter in a partnership that began in 1907 when the Christian orphanage, the forerunner of Elon Homes and Schools for Children, opened adjacent to the campus of Elon College.
"We are proud to add this property to the Elon University campus and maintain the educational use of this area of our community," says Leo M. Lambert, Elon University president. "Our students have enjoyed the benefits of the facilities that were made possible through our original purchase of a 75-acre portion of the Elon Homes campus in 2003. This additional property will be a valuable asset for Elon."
The Rev. Fred Grosse, president and CEO of Elon Homes and Schools for Children, said the sale is important for both his organization and the university.
"We view this as a win-win scenario for our organization and for the university," Grosse says. "Congregate care for at-risk children on campus-based facilities has been all but eliminated by Congress since the 1996 passage of the Adoption and Safe Families Act. For the past decade, we have been steadily expanding our services off campus into 12 counties to the point where now we simply have no need for the 20 acres in Elon. It is, however, historic and sacred ground to us, so we are very pleased it will now move to the good stewardship of Elon University."
Elon Homes and Schools for Children has approximately 1,100 children, ages 0 to 21, in its systems of care in North Carolina. The family foster care services place children in foster homes and also facilitate adoptions; Kids Central of the Carolinas offers assessments and treatment to children at or below the poverty level; and the agency's Kennedy Charter Public School is a K-12 school in Charlotte serving primarily low-income and at-risk children.
"The Board has conducted a 12-month period of discernment on our future," says Michael A. Stewart, chief governance officer and chairman of the board for Elon Homes and Schools for Children. "We make this real estate decision with a very strong consideration and remembrance of our past but also with a keen awareness that our future is our charter school and in-home and community-based services across our state. We are fortunate for this campus asset to be used to strengthen our foundation and thus help fund our outreach into the future."
At The Duke Endowment, a private foundation with a long history of support for Elon Homes, Vice President Rhett Mabry applauded the sale.
"Elon Homes and Schools for Children is anticipating the future of child welfare and joining many other former orphanages in selling their campuses," Mabry says. "The decision will help Elon Homes transition to a home-based approach and bolster its service array."
Elon Homes and Schools for Children is a member of the Council on Health and Human Services of the United Church of Christ. The agency has and will continue to expand its existing family foster care program in the Triad area and will be adding a new level of foster care in the next fiscal year. The agency will be securing corporate offices in Alamance County prior to the sale of the campus, and all corporate administration officers and Triad area foster care staff will work from that office.
The five buildings purchased by the university in this transaction include a large central facility formerly known as the Barringer Building and later used for The Elon School, a private high school that opened in 2007. There is also a residential building, gymnasium, two additional classroom/office buildings and a soccer field.
Over the next year, Elon will conduct a planning process to determine how the facilities and land will be utilized to support the university's core academic mission and support operations.
The university has already integrated the original portion of the Elon Homes property that it purchased in 2003 into a vibrant area known as South Campus. A large part of the property was developed into Phoenix Club Sports Fields, including playing fields for soccer, football, rugby, lacrosse and baseball, and a practice field for the Fire of the Carolinas marching band. The Worsley Golf Training Center and Driving Range was developed on the property and the wooded area provides a running course for the university's varsity cross country teams.
The original Elon Homes administration building, Johnston Hall, was fully renovated into a home for Elon's Alumni Center and the Office of University Advancement. Truitt Hall, which previously served as administrative offices of Elon Homes, now houses the Office of University Communications. Holt Chapel was fully renovated and is used daily by campus groups, and Harden Building now serves as the clubhouse for Elon's Campus Recreation. In addition, Holland House, which previously served as the residence for Elon presidents, was moved to South Campus and today houses the university's Newman Catholic Center.
The historic relationship between the university and Elon Homes and Schools for Children began with leaders of the Christian Church, the predecessor of today's United Church of Christ, who founded Elon College in 1889 and the Christian Orphanage in 1907. The two institutions shared deep community ties and many generous donors provided support for both the college and the orphanage.
Charles D. Johnston, superintendent of the orphanage from 1916 to 1949, was treasurer of the Elon College Board of Trustees. Many of the children who were raised at the orphanage went on to graduate from Elon College. Johnston's successor as superintendent was John G. Truitt, a 1917 Elon graduate. The Rev. Walstein Snyder, a 1945 Elon graduate, was president of the orphanage from 1960 to 1990.
The orphanage changed its name to Elon Homes for Children in 1964, and its mission gradually evolved from serving dependent children to providing foster care, behavioral health services and schools. Elon Homes opened Kennedy Charter School in Charlotte and more recently established The Elon School, a private high school on the Snyder Campus. Next fall, The Elon School will move to the former Blessed Sacrament School property in Burlington, N.C., and be operated by a local group that has formed an organization called Friends of Independent Schools.