December 18, 2015

St. Elizabeth/Coleman receives award for a century of service

Indiana Historical Society chairman of the board of trustees David Evans, left, poses with St. Elizabeth/Coleman Pregnancy and Adoptive Services agency director Renee Hummel, St. Elizabeth/Coleman director of community relations Priscilla Kamrath, and Catholic Charities Indianapolis director David Bethuram as they accept the IHS Centennial Business Award on Dec. 7 in Indianapolis. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

Indiana Historical Society chairman of the board of trustees David Evans, left, poses with St. Elizabeth/Coleman Pregnancy and Adoptive Services agency director Renee Hummel, St. Elizabeth/Coleman director of community relations Priscilla Kamrath, and Catholic Charities Indianapolis director David Bethuram as they accept the IHS Centennial Business Award on Dec. 7 in Indianapolis. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

By Natalie Hoefer

The year was 1915. Across the ocean, the “Great War” was raging in Europe. Woodrow Wilson was president of the United States, and the U.S. House of Representatives rejected a proposal to give women the right to vote.

But on a positive note for women, on Sept. 26, 1915, the Daughters of Isabella created an organization in Indianapolis to help women with maternity and infant care needs.

A century later, that organization exists today as St. Elizabeth/Coleman Pregnancy Adoption Services.

For its 100 years of serving the community, the organization was awarded the Indiana Historical Society’s (IHS) Centennial Business Award.

“It’s really exciting to say we’ve had such longevity with all the services that we’ve had, and continue to expand our services to meet the needs of the community,” said Renee Hummel, director for the agency for the last 10 years and an employee for 23 years.

That work began through the Daughters of Isabella, an auxiliary organization of the Knights of Columbus. Members of Mother Theodore Circle #56, Indiana’s first Daughters of Isabella chapter, started by serving hot meals and providing childcare for women working during World War I.

In 1922, the organization purchased a home at 2500 Churchman Ave. in Indianapolis. By this time, they were housing abandoned infants and unwed mothers and their children.

A fire destroyed the structure in 1925, and a new structure was built in its place. By 1929, St. Elizabeth’s Home—named in honor of St. Elizabeth of Hungary—was offering residential pre-natal care, birth delivery, care for newborns and toddlers, and adoptive services.

In 1968, a residence hall was built next to the 1925 administration building. By 1980, the 1925 structure was razed and a new administration building connected to the residence hall was completed.

Nearly 25 years later, in 2004, the organization merged with Coleman Adoption Services, an agency helping “wayward girls” since the time of the Civil War. Thus the St. Elizabeth/Coleman Pregnancy and Adoption Services was created. The organization became an agency of Catholic Charities Indianapolis in 2008.

Currently, St. Elizabeth/Coleman programs annually assist an average of more than 120 pregnant women, 30 mothers in support groups, 50 families seeking adoption, and 470 mothers needing basic baby needs.

Priscilla Kamrath, director of community relations for the century-old organization, submitted paperwork to IHS for the award.

“They contacted us and asked us to fill out an application, send in [highlights] of our history and send in photos,” she said. “I was hopeful that we would get recognized, and very excited when they told us we would be recognized.”

According to IHS literature, the award was created in 1992 “to provide special recognition to Indiana companies continually in business for a century or more, to encourage the preservation of historically significant business-related archival materials, and to develop increased awareness of our rich business and industrial heritage among Indiana’s citizens.”

The award was presented at a banquet at IHS’s Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana History Center in Indianapolis on Dec. 7.

“The emcee who gave the introduction to all the honorees surprised us,” said Kamrath. “He said as a preface to the introduction that he was delighted to introduce the next honoree. He went on to say that he and his staff had volunteered at St. Elizabeth/Coleman and gave praises to our agency and services. What a tribute it was!”

David Bethuram, director of Catholic Charities Indianapolis, attended the awards ceremony.

“It’s very humbling, the work that the Daughters of Isabella had done prior to [the archdiocese] even thinking about this [type of] service,” he said. “For them to recognize the needs of women and children at that time is absolutely amazing to me.

“To know what they prayed for and worked for for so long—to have it come to fruition and still be around for 100 years—says something about their vision and about how the Church embraced the understanding of what life’s about, and how we need to be there when life begins.”

(For more information on St. Elizabeth/Coleman Pregnancy and Adoptive Services, log on to www.givingbirthtohope.org or call 317-787-0482. For more historical photos of the agency, log on to www.givingbirthtohope.org/st-elizabeths-100-years.)

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