In 1856, the New York State Legislature passed a law aimed at improving the situation of abused, indigent, and homeless children. It was not until 40 years later, that the New York State Board of Charities was established and legislation passed requiring that orphaned children be placed in the care of charitable institutions or families of similar religious denominations. One of the solutions most frequently chosen was to place children in a shelter, however at that time there was no Protestant home in Ogdensburg or the surrounding areas. In April of 1898, after many meetings and discussions, 12 area women –two each from the Baptist, Congregational, Universalist, Episcopalian, Methodist, and Presbyterian churches formed the Society of the United Helpers. The newly-formed group applied for a state charter immediately thereafter, with a constitution and bylaws for the Society being adopted.
On May 4, 1898, the Society of the United Helpers placed its first child in the home that it rented at 22 Congress Street, Ogdensburg, NY. After 18 months in operation, the Society of the United Helpers had placed 23 children in good homes and nearly 60 children had been cared for at the Congress Street home. In the spring of 1900, after seeing that the Society of the United Helpers would need a bigger home, the Society purchased a 2.5 acre lot at 1200 State Street in Ogdensburg, NY. On New Year’s Day in 1901, the new orphanage was opened and 50 children immediately moved into the home. The home remained an orphanage until 1959, when the State
Department of Social Welfare decided that children should be placed in foster homes. Despite this dramatic change its original mission, the Society of the United Helpers shifted to providing a variety of services to the elderly and those with disabilities, as well as outreach programs such as Meals on Wheels and a community health care clinic. If you or somebody you know was an early resident of United Helpers, please contact the Society of the United Helpers Development Office at 315-393-3074 ext 230.