“I don’t want that to define me. I want you to know me as the girl who’s improved, not the girl who is stuck, not the abused little girl that I was. I am girl that’s going to college.”
Allison’s words did not fall on deaf ears. The Marygrove Independent Living Program Resident and recipient of the 2021 Eagan Scholarship Award spoke them to a packed banquet room at Marygrove’s 2022 BLOOM fundraising event at the Four Seasons Hotel St. Louis in early March.
Allison was nine when she came to Marygrove. A child scarred by abuse, she says she had begun to lose hope and even contemplated ending her life. But Allison found a safe place at Marygrove—a place that enabled her to build a life wholly different from and in spite of her past.
“I thought that no one was going to help me, and I was wrong. If I could tell my little 9-year-old self something, I would tell her to keep going. So, thank you—all of you…for me, you’ve done enough.”
Allison is now working and attending Ranken Technical College with the goal of obtaining a degree in electrical systems and becoming a line worker for a utility company. She told attendees of BLOOM: “Marygrove is here for the kids that never gave up, when their parents gave up on them."
Just $18 provides a birthday cake for a Marygrove-associated foster child. Fifty dollars pays for a safe home for a day. Five hundred and thirty-nine dollars provides two weeks of healthy meals for two kids, and $1,010 will cover the cost of five therapy sessions for two kids.
But attendees of the BLOOM event didn’t stop there. When all was said and done, they dug deep and raised more than $575,000 to support the Florissant, Missouri-based nonprofit.
Marygrove's Therapeutic Residential Treatment Program provides homes to 90 kids each day in its six residential "cottages." The money raised at BLOOM ensures these kids continue to have a safe home, food, education, healthcare and all of their basic needs met.
For 170-plus years, Marygrove has been a place where children, youth and families have found hope and healing. Their motto is simple: “Sharing the love of Jesus Christ, Marygrove provides a safe home, compassionate care, and high-quality mental health services to children who have experienced significant trauma, to restore their childhood, and equip them for their future.”
Founded in 1849 as the House of Good Shepherd, a St. Louis Home for girls, Marygrove is now a $12-million nonprofit organization and one of eight federated agencies of Catholic Charities of St. Louis.
Young people who come to Marygrove are often struggling with debilitating emotional and behavioral issues resulting from abuse, neglect and other trauma. They have in most cases endured multiple failed placements at other organizations, cycled through foster homes, or even survived failed adoptions. Many come from severely disruptive family situations. Some have even been discharged from psychiatric hospitals directly to Marygrove.
Marygrove caregivers indicate: “The emotional toll a severely dysfunctional and aberrant family can have on a child cannot be underestimated. Where nurturing, love and security are necessary for stable psychological and emotional growth, our children have experienced the neglect of primal needs. They have become victims, due to their environments, and have developed profound emotional, detachment and trust issues manifesting as just the tip of what lies below. Most of our youth are diagnosed with behavioral and psychiatric disorders as a result of abuse, neglect, abandonment and other trauma. Without Marygrove, most of our children would have few, if any, alternatives for housing and face life on the street, in prison, or in an institution.”
“It’s not enough to tell a child they are safe,” auctioneer Fletcher Lane told bidders at the BLOOM event. “At Marygrove, they must feel safe, too. Our kids deserve to feel safe. Don’t they?” His comments were followed by two attendees bidding $25,615 to Marygrove—an amount that provides one-week around-the-clock essential care for 120 children living on the Marygrove campus.
“The ultimate goal of true nonprofit service work is to help create a world that no longer needs us,” says Marygrove CEO Michael Meehan, Ph.D. "The last few years have been extraordinarily difficult for so many industries, and nonprofit agencies like Marygrove, whose work centers on providing 24-hour care to youth in foster care, have been among those hit the hardest. Perhaps at no time in my 35-plus years in the field have we needed the support of our donors more than we do now in our work to provide healing and hope to some of Missouri's most vulnerable children."
As one of the largest therapeutic residential treatment programs in Missouri, Marygrove and professional caregivers provide compassion, encouragement and structure, while licensed masters-level therapists offer individualized treatment plans and counseling to children there.
Many of the children who arrive at Marygrove do so with immediate needs—things such as clean clothes, food and medical treatment. They arrive without the most basic belief that they will have a bed, a meal, clean clothes or safety.
“Each child comes with a heartbreaking personal story,” Marygrove representatives report. “Marygrove enriches the lives of nearly 700 young people each year, ages birth-21, through a broad continuum of residential and community-based programming and wraparound services, including therapeutic residential treatment and foster care, transitional and independent living, special education and recreational therapy, family counseling, and parenting education.”
Marygrove uses trauma-informed care and a positive youth development framework to help mitigate adverse childhood experiences while preventing future homelessness and trauma.
Eighty-five percent of Marygrove youth are homeless or are wards of the state. Ninety-five percent live under the federal poverty line. Eighty-five percent have severe mental health issues, 30 percent have experienced failed adoptions, and 85 percent have survived abuse, physical or emotional trauma.
Last year, 242 staff members served 674 young people from 120 counties in Missouri and Illinois, on Marygrove’s 43-acre campus (2705 Mullanphy Lane, Florissant, Missouri 63031) overlooking the bluffs of the Missouri River.