The story begins in Erie on September 26, 1912, when thirteen women gathered in the home of Mrs. Otto Hitchcock to discuss the pressing need to find a home for an infant found abandoned at Union Station. The women formed a board of directors, and over the next two weeks they rented a house at 947 West 7th Street and hired a nurse and house mother to staff the facility. Erie Infants Home and Hospital was born.
The object of the new institution was to “provide a temporary home or hospital for needy infants from birth to two years of age.” Local residents donated money and furnishings. Demand for the home’s services quickly became evident: within its first year of operation, more than 80 babies received care.
The organization was incorporated in 1913. The need for larger quarters prompted a move to West 11th Street the following year, and in 1916 the board of directors purchased a house on East 26th Street. During World War I, the small staff and board volunteers cared for many children there whose families were unable to provide for them.
A new home/hospital was built on adjacent property in 1927. This building, located at 226 East 27th Street, remains the agency’s main facility. The East 26th Street house became a residence for nurses. During the Great Depression and again during World War II, Erie Infants Home and Hospital served as a refuge for countless children whose families struggled during difficult economic times.
By the 1950s, board members saw the need to reevaluate the role of the organization. The home expanded its charter to care for mentally challenged children awaiting admission to Polk State School and Hospital.
Erie Infants Home and Hospital began providing educational experiences for each resident in the early 1970s. The agency’s commitment to helping each person reach his/her highest potential was an emerging concept. In 1972, the agency changed its name to Erie Infants Home.
In the 1980s, the purchase of two houses for providing residential care demonstrated the agency’s emerging vision of providing more home-like settings. By 1983, another name change was needed. Erie Infants and Youth Home more accurately described the residents the agency served. The infants were growing up.
Rapid growth and change in the 1990s made it apparent that the agency had again outgrown its name. Erie Homes for Children and Adults (EHCA) better reflected the range of people served by the agency as well as the expanded services provided.
The progressive spirit of EHCA’s founders continues into the new millennium. Today, the agency offers programs in four Pennsylvania counties and provides supports to over 350 individuals and their families through its 17 group residences and six community-based programs every day.
EHCA employs nearly 500 people in positions ranging from direct support professionals and nurses to program specialists and family service providers. As a private nonprofit organization, EHCA depends not only on governmental funding and the commitment of its staff but also on community volunteers and the generous support of individual and corporate donors.