At the Masonic Children’s Home, children are given a chance to become who they aspire to be and achieve their dreams. This journey begins with getting a referral or filling out an application to the children’s home.

“To start the application process, you can go to our website, get our phone number and call the children’s home,” Mark Kurzenknabe, director of children’s services, said. “From there, we ask some questions and figure out a time for the family to tour campus.”

The tour is a vital element in the process, Mark said, as it’s when the children and families will have the opportunity to interact with the staff and get a glimpse of living at the children’s home.

“We want the child to come for a weekend visit to experience life here. Visiting specifically in the summer gives a child a good idea of what a regular day is like when there is no school,” Mark said.

During the summer, there’s an abundance of activities for the children to do. The local recreation center and school sports programs offer activities, and the children’s home campus has basketball and tennis courts, a playground and play areas, a picnic area and fire pit, swimming pools and bike paths.

Children who are interested in art, music, dance and other hobbies have the opportunity to take private lessons, and sports games, amusement park trips, beach trips and picnics bring even more excitement to the children’s home.

Another part of the application process involves paperwork and obtaining school records. Mark said it usually takes about a month from the time a child is referred or applies to the time they can move in.

“Every situation is a little different, but it’s a pretty straightforward process,” Mark said.

If a child is determined to be an “appropriate fit” for the children’s home, they are invited to be a part of the program. Mark said it’s important that potential candidates show they are excited to be there and be successful.

The social worker at the children’s home also aids in the journey of encouraging each child to be successful, and the children’s home staff makes the moving transition as easy as possible. Additionally, they try their best to keep siblings together and have them move into the children’s home at the same time. For Eriyah and Emmet, that was important so they could get used to their new environment and new school together.

The house parents and other children welcomed Eriyah and Emmet with open arms.

“The house parents here are really nice, and they teach you to be responsible,” Eriyah said.

Eriyah’s and Emmet’s academics have drastically improved, and they now have hopes for the future. Eriyah wants to become an engineer, and Emmet hopes to one day turn his creativity into a career as an artist.

There’s fun at the children’s home, too. Both Eriyah and Emmet love going to the pool, seeing movies and taking trips with the other boys and house parents in their cottages.

“We have lots of different opportunities and lots of people to look up to here,” Emmet said. Word of mouth is the most common way people learn about the children’s home – usually through alumni, school social workers or families who currently have children at the children’s home telling others in their area.

“Referrals come from all over and are endless. People also find out through Google searches, our Facebook page or by visiting the Masonic Village website,” Mark said.

Regardless of where the referral or application comes from, Mark said the children’s home strives to accommodate children and families in the best way they can.

“Our goal is to fill all of our spots with children whom we can help succeed,” Mark said.

By Katy Shero, public relations associate/intern