The Story of Father Maloney’s Boys and Girls Haven

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In 1940s Louisville, dependent boys and girls who were either biological orphans or children from broken or otherwise unsatisfactory homes were sent to orphanages. Those orphanages were required by law to return children to their families or send them to foster homes when they reached the age of 14. Girls were easily placed but not boys, who often were left with no choice but to live in a rooming house and make their way in the world alone.

In a campaign letter dated May 19, 1948, Father Maloney said, “This home is being established to take care of boys who are too old to remain in the orphanage and yet too young to make their own way unsupervised in the world. We will take care of the needy boys who want to continue their education and those who need adult care and living quarters while they are establishing themselves in a job.”

While the history of Boys Haven commonly begins with the opening of its first building in July 1950, the true beginning of Boys Haven was when three boys moved into the basement of St. Raphael Church’s rectory in July 1948. About that same time, Father also found places in private boarding homes for six boys whose needs also were too immediate to be refused.

Likewise, the planning process for Boys Haven started in 1948. The Board of Trustees was organized on May 14, 1948, and the first fund drive began on that date with many of Louisville’s oldest families and most respected businesses as its original donors. The goal was to raise $75,000 to purchase property for a home and sustain it for one year. (The first annual operating budget was $15,000, as compared to the current budget of approximately $7 million!) Plans called for 20 boys between the ages of 14 and 21 to live there.

Father found 20 acres at Bardstown Road and the Watterson Expressway, persuaded Louisville Archbishop John A. Floersh that Boys Haven was needed, and convinced his wonderfully receptive family to buy the land. He raised more money, and Louisville architect and developer Al J. Schneider began construction of the first building (at cost) on August 6, 1949. On July 22, 1950, nine boys, a cook and Father Maloney moved into their new home.

Father’s goal was to make the boys as self-reliant as possible. They held all kinds of jobs at many types of businesses, including work at a pie bakery, grinding lenses at a downtown optical company and serving as an automobile-parking attendant at a downtown theater. Two boys worked at grocery stores and another at a piano store. Additionally, every boy was expected to complete high school while at Boys’ Haven. Any boy who wanted to go to college was afforded a special arrangement through Bellarmine College to cover all costs.

In Father Maloney’s words, the philosophy of Boys Haven was that “The boys had to be stable enough to live in a group and attend nearby schools. The main goal of the home is to get them (the boys) to grow up, to be able to go back home and be able to adjust to daily living.”

Due to abuse and neglect issues, our boys now suffer from deeper emotional disturbances than in the past. This change started in the 1980s, and Boys Haven’s programs have evolved as a result. While our services have expanded over the years, our mission to serve young men, women and families, regardless of race or creed, has remained constant.

During its 50th anniversary, Boys Haven launched a major capital campaign, “Building New Lives”, to raise money for the renovation of the three cottage residences. This campaign, which raised more than $2 million primarily from Louisville-area families and businesses, modernized campus facilities and gave Boys Haven a solid foundation from which to enhance its outreach into the community.

In recent years, Boys’ Haven has expanded beyond its traditional residential program. Once known as a home for 30 abused and neglected boys, Boys Haven has been growing rapidly in the last few years to serve at-risk youth and struggling families throughout the Greater Louisville area and Salt River Trail area.

Father Maloney died on August 22, 1998 at the age of 87. But his vision and his life’s work continue through each generation of boys we serve. Since we have been serving young women since 2004 we are now called Boys and Girls Haven and operate under the leadership of Executive Director Jeff Hadley with the support of a dedicated Board of Trustees and a motivated staff of over 100 employees.