“Safety and security don’t just happen, they are the result of collective consensus and public investment. We owe our children, the most vulnerable citizens in our society, a life free of violence and fear.”
– Nelson Mandela
Throughout the 100-year history of MacDonell Children’s Services, they have created the environment Mandela was describing as they have served and protected children from our community by giving them a safe home, free of fear and violence.
MacDonell Children’s Services is what it is today because of the vision of the late Ella Keener Hooper. The Rosedale-native started missionary work in the early 1900s. Originally hoping to do missionary work in China, Hooper was unable to pursue her original dream due to her poor eyesight. She later saw this as a blessing, however, as she later found the French Mission Field.
She and another avid volunteer and friend, Laura White, did Sunday school and church work with local French immigrants. Hooper organized Sunday school at Cedar Grove and Dulac, which became precursors for several rural Sunday schools. She taught the French people how to read and write and visited with their sick.
Noticing that French children who lived in the distant areas in the bayou country around Houma didn’t go to school, Hooper and White opened up their home on High Street to six girls living in those areas. Because the girls lived with Hooper and White in Houma, they were able easily attend local schools. A year later, in 1919, the first official house of MacDonell Children’s Services would be established.
A Centenary gift of $10,000 lead to the purchasing of the Westley House. Located on East Main Street in Houma, the house was built in 1832 and is still on the organization’s grounds today. It became the French Mission School named MacDonell United Methodist Children’s Services. It was named after R.W. MacDonell — a Methodist missionary and former secretary that secured the Centenary funds.
In 1922, MacDonell opened the School Building, which provided classrooms and a dormitory for boys, and the McCoy building, that provided living space, a dining room, kitchen and laundry room for girls, after receiving funds from the Week of Prayer. In the following years, the organization was able to purchase two acres of adjoining property and residence, named Hope Cottage.
In 1948, after roads improved and education was more accessible, the French Mission School was no longer in need. However, Hooper found another group of children that needed her help.
Following a devastating storm, a population of Indian families moved to Houma, although public schools in the area at the time had barred their children from attending them. That’s when MacDonell and Hooper opened their facilities to them. Following the admission of Indian children into public schools in 1953, MacDonell transformed to what it is today.
Present-day MacDonell Children’s Services provides a loving home to boys, ages 11 to 17, who need a safe and nurturing environment that have been removed from their natural homes. The facility takes in boys that are deemed fit for their services by the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services. MacDonell usually houses 10-12 at-risk boys at their facility.
“The kids are usually taken away from their family because of abuse and neglect. So, they’re all on different tracks,” explained Kevin Champagne, Executive Director of MacDonell. “Some of them may return to their family. Some of them may be up for adoption. Not every kid is here with the same set of circumstances. Some here may be temporary and some here may age out. It just depends on where they’re at.”
Although MacDonell just tends to the boys, they partnered with another nonprofit, Options for Independence, to keep the girl’s dormitory open on campus.
MacDonell’s contracts with the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services, which allows them to pay for room and board. Proceeds from the community go to the children’s extracurricular activities such as recreational sports, school dances, swimming lessons, and more so they can live a full adolescent life.
That’s why this year MacDonell is holding an amazing event that not only celebrates its 100 years of service, but also will raise money for the organization — that goes directly to their kids’ needs.
On August 9, 2019 at the Houma-Terrebonne Civic Center, MacDonell will kick off their event, “Celebrating the Past, Creating Futures,” at 6:30 p.m. At the celebration, the band Corporate America from New Orleans will be performing, there will be food donated by different restaurants and organizations, games and live and silent auctions.
For more information on this impactful event, email Heidi Pellegrin at
firstname.lastname@example.org. Donations can also be made on their website, macdonellchildren.org.•