The options were bleak for children who lost their parents in the late 1800s and early 1900s, but for 89 years, Utica's Masonic Home, now known as the Masonic Care Community, offered help, hope and most importantly, family. Our Sarah Blazonis visited a new exhibit dedicated to those known as the Masonic Home Kids and spoke with some about the impact it had on their lives.
UTICA, N.Y. -- Opening the doors of a room in the Masonic Care Community's Robert R. Livingston Masonic Library and Museum meant stepping back into the past for dozens of former Masonic Home Kids Friday, particularly Lynne Jones Osborn.
"It was stunning. It was just stunning," said Osborn.
Osborn came to live at the home in 1947 at the age of nine after her parents were hospitalized with tuberculosis. It was her old dorm room that was chosen as the site of a new exhibit dedicated to the children who lived here from 1893-1982.
"It was more like a home atmosphere, it was not a dormitory kind of atmosphere. I think that was important," said Osborn.
The 969 children helped by the program over the years had their share of differences.
"Most of the kids came from New York City. Different ethnic backgrounds, different religions, different environments -- it was a melting pot," said Tom Yacovella. He came to live in the home with his brothers and sisters in 1950 after his mother's death.
But they all had similar stories: they were either orphaned or had parents who couldn't care for them for a variety of reasons. Their connection to the Masons ensured they received care and an education.
"They learned a lot of skills. We had carpentry shops, we had mechanical shops, electrical shops, so that they learned the trades that would be important for them to succeed through life," said Rob Raffle, executive director of the Masonic Care Community.
Changing times brought about the end of the program in 1982, but former Masonic Home Kids say they're glad this exhibit was put together to remind the community about an important part of its past.
"You can never, ever replace your mother and father, but this was a great, wonderful nest to land in," said Yacovella.
And a piece of history that shaped the futures of generations.