LASKER HOME FOR HOMELESS CHILDREN
LASKER HOME FOR HOMELESS CHILDREN. In 1894 eight Galveston women founded the Society for the Help of Homeless Children with the object of establishing a day nursery and "temporary home for homeless white children" who needed shelter from sick, negligent, or abusive parents. The charter and constitution called for a board of nine women directors to supervise the estate and financial concerns of the corporation, a board of thirty managers to direct the internal and domestic affairs, and a board of "twelve gentlemen," whose function was solely advisory. Women ran the corporation-from admitting children to investing funds. The president was to "sign all certificates, papers and legal instruments in behalf of the Society," and eight standing committees carried on the management of the home. One of its most prominent members was Rebecca Henry Hayes, professional journalist and president of the Texas Equal Rights Association from 1893 to 1895. The first house, at Thirty-seventh Street and Avenue R, came to be known as the Home for the Homeless Children and was unique in that it took in children who paid, partially paid, or did not pay. The last were supported minimally by the county commissioners. In the first two classes, the parents were required to obtain an agreement from their employers to assume responsibility for payment if the parent defaulted. In the third class the home took children that the Galveston Orphan's Home refused, who were technically wards of the county. The society cared for as many as seventy children before 1900.
In the Galveston hurricane of 1900 the home lost its building and many of the children. Through the assistance of the city and county governments the society bought property for $5,000 in May 1901 at Sixteenth Street and Avenue K, which they planned to expand and improve for a new home. Hayes, in petitioning the mayor and county commissioners in 1904 for the deed to the property, stated that the lady managers desired "to establish a kindergarten in the home and also to provide for a common school literary education supplemented with industrial training." Rebuilding, expanding the grounds, and admitting more children required a substantial outlay of funds. With no endowment, the managers were dependent on the community's good will for their recovery. Joining with the Johanna Runge Free Kindergarten, the managers in 1908 canvassed the downtown streets, soliciting funds through a "Tag Day" drive. Finally in 1912 Morris Lasker gave the home $15,000 for expansion and renovation. In return the managers renamed the institution the Lasker Home for Homeless Children in 1913.
Further aid was provided by women in Galveston church and synagogue societies. Members of the Hebrew Ladies Benevolent Society subsidized indigent Jewish children in the home. Their aid increased substantially when Lasker contributed to the building fund and after Mrs. A. Frenkel, a member of Temple B'Nai Israelqv, became president of the home in 1916. Baptist women sent sandwiches, Methodist women clothed several children, and Episcopal women sent treats to the children of the Lasker Home. The home had come under the funding of the Galveston Community Chest by 1939, afterward the United Fund, and finally the United Way. It received county financial support beginning in 1959. The home functioned for eighty-three years in the Sixteenth Street building, and it accepted up to twenty-five children at a time who needed a home temporarily or long-term. In 1984 the Lasker Home, along with the Galveston Children's Home and other children's facilities in Galveston, merged and became the Children's Center, Incorporated. In 1985 the building was put on the market, as the remaining children had been placed in individual homes the preceding year.
Galveston Daily News, October 8, 1904, April 15, 1908. S. C. Griffin, History of Galveston, Texas (Galveston: Cawston, 1931). John Gunther, Taken at the Flood: The Story of Albert D. Lasker (New York: Harper, 1960). A. Elizabeth Taylor, Citizens at Last: The Woman Suffrage Movement in Texas (Austin: Temple, 1987). Elizabeth Hayes Turner, "Women, Religion, and Reform in Galveston, 1880–1920," in Urban Texas: Politics and Development, ed. Char Miller and Heywood T. Sanders (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1990).