Since moving to Omaha, I have wanted to visit Boys Town. Driving by it on our first day I said to Scott, “I know I should know what Boys Town is…I have heard about it…but I’m not really certain I know exactly what they do.”
(enter the handy-dandy resource tool: Google.)
Boys Town is an actual city in Nebraska: Boys Town, Nebraska. It is 1.4 sq miles and according to the 2010 census, population was 745. More famously it is known as “Father Flanagan’s Boys’ Home”, founded by Father Edward J. Flanagan.
72.8% of residents were under the age of 18.
From the Boys Town website:
Right now, in communities throughout the country, there are children living in fear, seeking guidance and in desperate need of compassion. Wherever these children are hurting, Boys Town is helping with our Integrated Continuum of Care. Some are being reunited with their families, others are entering foster care or moving into a Boys Town family residence, and still others are receiving help at home where they can remain together as families.
For nearly 100 years, we’ve worked to save children, heal families and strengthen communities.
Boys Town History:
In 1917, a young Irish priest named Father Edward J. Flanagan grew discouraged in his work with homeless men in Omaha, Nebraska. He shifted his attention and in December of that year, borrowed $90 to pay the rent on a boarding house that became Father Flanagan’s Home for Boys. Flanagan welcomed all boys, regardless of their race or religion. By the spring, 100 boys were living at the Home.
In 1921, Father Flanagan purchased Overlook Farm on the outskirts of Omaha and moved his Boys’ Home there. In time, the Home became known as the Village of Boys Town. By the 1930s, hundreds of boys lived at the Village which grew to include a school, dormitories and administration buildings. The boys elected their own government which included a mayor, council and commissioners. In 1936, the community became an official village in the state of Nebraska.
News of Father Flanagan’s work spread worldwide with the success of the 1938 movie, “Boys Town” (Spencer Tracy, Mickey Rooney). Tracy won an Academy Award for his portrayal of Father Flanagan, which he later donated to the priest. After World War II, President Truman asked Flanagan to take his message to the world. He traveled the globe visiting war orphans and advising government leaders on how to care for displaced children.
Much later, girls began coming to Boys Town for help. The Family Home Program continues today as one of Boys Town’s trademark treatment approaches, where children live in homes and are cared for by married couples known as Family-Teachers. The Boys Town National Research Hospital opened in 1977. Today, the Hospital is a nationally-recognized treatment center for children with hearing and speech disorders.
The Boys Town national headquarters remain in Omaha. As one of the largest non-profit child-care agencies in the country, they provide compassionate treatment for the behavioral, emotional and physical problems of children and families. Each year, Boys Town touches the lives of over 2 million people. The National Hotline has handled more than 8 million calls since its inception.
Boys Town mission statement:
Changing the way America cares for children, families and communities by providing and promoting an Integrated Continuum of Care that instills Boys Town values to strengthen body, mind and spirit.
There are so many pictures I would love to share with you (I know there are a lot of pictures, but it was a fascinating place.) I took ‘Before and After’ pictures. Boys Town now and Boys Town from the 1920s. I hope you’ll look through them and enjoy the tour as much as I enjoyed walking the streets of this inspired village. I started taking pictures in the new section of Boys Town where the homes for Boys Town families are manicured and peaceful. Scattered throughout the village are large vans and kids out working on the lawns or walking through the streets as if on a college campus. There is a Grand Hall (cafeteria) that looks SO much like a Harry Potter set! — I walked around the Catholic Church, established in 1930, then walked around the Protestant chapel, built later in 1989 (although there is a gargoyle on a Protestant church!) — I then walked around the old Boys Town area from years ago. I do not know if this old farm is still in use (it doesn’t seem like it, though.) Boys were sent here, to these white buildings of the 1920s, to work the farm and to learn cooperation and discipline as well as the love of family. It was interesting to see how the village has changed over the years, but how it mirrors the original vision of Father Flanagan.
I hope to become much more involved with Boys Town in the future. It was an inspired visit and a testament to the enormous hearts of God-inspired disciples.