By Glenn Rutherford, Record Editor
There have been some changes over the years at St. Joseph Children’s Home — it’s had five executive directors over the past decade or so. And now it has a new seven-person board of directors and construction teams at work on making the next part of the home’s dreams come true — four new cottages that will be built to house St. Joseph’s 40 or so children that are part of its residential program.
Crews started demolishing the outbuildings that will make way for the new cottages last week.
What never changes at the Children’s Home on Frankfort Avenue is its mission to the children it serves — and its annual picnic, one of the best known social events in the entire community.
This year’s Aug. 10 picnic will be the 164th, and though it will look much the same as the first 163, there also will be some subtle changes in this year’s event intended to give more attention and better emphasize the mission of the home.
St. Joseph Children’s Home was once an orphanage and at its zenith in that role, it once housed more than 600 young people either bereft of parents or left at the home for economic or domestic reasons.
Over the years the home’s mission has evolved and now its the site of four major programs. The 40 or so children in its residential program — the children who still live there now — range in age from five to 15 and have been placed with the home because they’ve been neglected or abused. They are placed with the home by the state’s department of health and human services.
The home’s other programs are its Child Development Center, a day-care program for about 200 youngsters ages six weeks to pre-kindergarten; and its Therapeutic Foster Care and Adoption Program for children of any age up through 21.
People attending this year’s picnic — and it’s been estimated that crowds range from 50,000 to 100,000, depending upon who’s doing the guessing — will see more information about St. Joseph’s programs.
“It’s our goal that when people leave the picnic, they’ll know about the missions of the home,” said Andrea Pridham, St. Joseph’s Development Director.
If picnic-goers park in the rear of the St. Joseph property — and most of them do — then the first thing they’ll see as they approach the picnic area is a tent near the area where the four new cottages will be erected.
“In that feature we’ll offer computer-generated tours of the new cottages, and information about our new ‘Give Five’ campaign,” she said. The campaign is a continuing effort to raise $5 million to pay for the construction of the cottages and for refurbishing and remodeling the 160-year-old building that has been a Louisville landmark for generations.
Among the changes in store for this year’s picnic will be the presence of booths in the center of the picnic grounds, one each for the programs at St. Joseph’s. Information in the booths will explain what’s happening at the home and give people more details about individual programs.
There also will be a more visible presence for the picnic’s corporate sponsors, Pridham said. “They’re such a significant part of the picnic and provide such tremendous support, we wanted people to be more aware of them.”
As a result, the United Auto Workers will display Ford cars and trucks — this being a town with two Ford plants. Applebee’s, which has been a big part of the picnic’s chicken dinner for years, will be more visible, too, as will sponsors such as Summitt Radio, Abel Construction, Byron Electric, CBS Outdoor, Stock Yards Bank and WAKY-Radio.
This year St. Joseph’s resident chef, Finbar Kinsella, will be assisted by local chef and restaurateur Dean Corbett. “The menu will be the same, but they’ve tweaked things just a bit,” Pridham noted. “They want to keep the chicken crispy, for instance, and they’ve worked to improve the green beans — just minor changes.
This year’s picnic activities will begin, as in years past, with music by three local bands — the Epics, who’ve been a constant at the “Friday Night Live” kickoff celebration for years; Billy Goat Strut, a band that plays swing music — the big band tunes that make up much of the “American song book,” and Famous on Friday, a band that does cover tunes from the seventies and eighties.
“It’s our largest fund-raising event each year,” Pridham said, “and this year we want to make sure that the people who come to enjoy the picnic also learn about and connect with the mission of the home. We’re really working to get across the message of what we do here for the children.”