One Man’s Dream

Here is a story published in the August 2008 Stereoscope

One Man’s Dream – by Susan Perry

20 years ago, the young Rev. Alex Nordin had a dream which has long ago overflowed into Phelps County history. Rev. Nordin wanted to care for children that had no place to live, either because they were orphans, or their family could not provide for them. The first few children were cared for in his parent’s home, north of Holdrege. He made trips to Chicago area churches for financial support, but also found several children there that needed care. By 1990 there were 22 children living in the home which was near his parents’ residence. The next year sizable farm ground was rented so that the enterprise could raise as much food as possible for the children and staff. By 1892, the number of children who had arrived had outgrown the facilities available to them, so a new building, 48 by 60 was built, and it contained housing, a school, and a chapel. The staff was fairly stable, and had a superintendent that oversaw all operations. The farm was operated at first by volunteer neighbors, but then had one manager appointed to grow the crops, raise the chickens and beef, and to see that all was harvested.The board of directors were from the neighborhood and from the “free” churches in the area. They met to approve management of the home and farm, to raise financial support and to plan for the future of the “Orphans Home.” As the number of children arriving continued to rise, the board began planning for expansion, and in the early 1900’s a separate school building was built as were a waterworks and a “modern laundry.” By 1917-18 the board began talking about building a modern facility, perhaps moving it nearer Holdrege. At this time there were 75 kids at the home, and almost all of them were victims of the virulent flu which swept the country at that time.As with many cooperative and large projects, drawing the plans and raising the support took several years. In 1925 the Holdrege Chamber of Commerce pledged $25,000 which was raised and surpassed in a one day community- wide drive. The schools, which had been raising money, were dismissed to march through downtown Holdrege, depositing their donations as they went. Through the generosity of many churches, the town of Holdrege, and many individuals from here and many other places, the building with a capacity of 100 kids, was built the next year, and remained in operation till the early 1950s.So one man’s dream of offering loving care to needy children grew into a very successful Christian-based children’s home. The home sat at the edge of Holdrege, but it was an integral part of the community. Schumarts barbershop offered free haircuts, local church was attended, and every winter Holdrege citizens filled the Christmas wish list of the kids printed in the local paper. After the eighth grade, kids were bused to high school, and their names and faces are in the yearbooks and the record books of the Dusters.One of those “kids” is Jean Meyer who lives in Bertrand. Over the years she had accumulated much history, photographs, and artifacts from the home. She donated them to Nebraska Prairie Museum when the board agreed that this part of Phelps County history should be remembered and commemorated. During the last few months, an exhibit featuring the history of the home and life within its walls has been finished. One of its highlights is a stained glass window and another is the dining room setting with the actual dishes which were on the tables at mealtime. During the “home kids” reunion, on the morning of June 28th the Christian Children’s Home display was dedicated.**Photo is of Jean Meyer–end

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