A History of Helping
By David Haas | Photography provided by Storycuse.com
Long before social services were available to the needy, The Ladies Relief of the Poor and Needy and Home Association was formed in Syracuse in 1851 to help impoverished women, children and orphans. An effort spearheaded by Mary Maltbie and Clara Hibbard, the group consisted of a handful of Protestant women who would walk the streets of Syracuse in search of those living in poverty or poor health and offer a hand.
A significant number of women they helped were widows; many women at that time did not work, and therefore would become financially unstable if their husbands died, especially if they were mothers who had mouths to feed.
The association moved in and out of several locations until the late 1860s, when Moses Dewitt Burnet, a prominent Syracusan, offered them land close to his nearby house to establish a more permanent location. Before finalizing his gift, Moses asked the organization to secure $50,000 in assets to ensure continuation of services.
A fundraising campaign ensued, and the cornerstone was laid in 1869. The pictured building, located at 212 N. Townsend St. on the outskirts of downtown Syracuse, was completed and opened in 1870.
As the public welfare system developed and other similar organizations were founded, the association redirected its focus. It shifted services to provide care to elderly women, while providing training in education, domestic skills and job readiness for younger women.
The organization remained on North Townsend Street until 1978, when it moved operations to Baldwinsville. Still located there today, the organization, now incorporated into McHarrie Life, continues the tradition of care by offering both long- and short-term services in a 122-bed facility.
In celebration of its 150th anniversary in 2001, the organization commissioned the construction of a bronze statue depicting Mary Maltbie and Clara Hibbard. The statue stands tall in the dining area. In the entryway, visitors can admire three marble plaques that once hung in the reception room of the organization’s original location. The plaques provide a tangible link to the honorable work undertaken by a prior generation of women. SWM
David Haas is a city of Syracuse resident who lives in the Eastwood neighborhood. He manages a nonprofit program for LDACNY and volunteers his time with several local organizations. David is the owner and operator of Storycuse.com and @SyracuseHistory on Instagram.