Quietly and without much fanfare, an era ended in January: St. Ann’s Center for Children, Youth and Families stopped being an orphanage.

Of course, it stopped using that Dickensian word long ago, just as it no longer referred to the children who entered its care as “foundlings.” Times change, and terms change. So does the way society treats its most vulnerable members. At St. Ann’s, they’ve been treated with care since 1860, when Congress approved the institution, founded by the Roman Catholic order of nuns called the Daughters of Charity.

There once was a time when an abandoned child might enter St. Ann’s as a baby and leave as a teenager. Until January, the Hyattsville center included a residential program for youngsters in foster care, a temporary home on the way to something more permanent. That stopped when a contract with the District government ended.

“It’s sad, but it’s the right thing, because we haven’t had true orphans at St. Ann’s for decades,” said Sister Mary Bader, chief executive of the charity.

The preference now is for children to go with family members or into foster care, not to an institution.

A nurse cares for one of many infants at St. Ann's on May 16, 1946. (Arthur Ellis/THE WASHINGTON POST)

“As the need diminished for our kind of care for children, we recognized a greater need out in the community involving children and their mothers,” Sister Mary said.

That’s been a part of St. Ann’s for a long time, too. Its Teen Mother-Baby program helps pregnant teens prepare for childbirth, while also allowing them to attend a high school on the premises. Two residential facilities — Hope House and Faith House — are for new mothers between the ages of 18 and 25. There is everything from day care to employment counseling. The idea is to break the cycle of homelessness that afflicts so many poor families in our area.

Longtime Washingtonians may know of St. Ann’s because of Mary McGrory. The late Washington Post columnist was a faithful supporter, visiting often, reading stories to the kids, taking them swimming at the Kennedy family mansion in McLean, writing about St. Ann’s in this newspaper.

“In our situation now, we are being proactive in preventing families from having to be separated because of abuse and neglect or homelessness,” Sister Mary said. “I’m excited because we’re being faithful to our mission. Our charter calls for us to help ‘women in distress,’ in the language of the day. That’s what today we would call pregnant unmarried women.”


These area schools are reuniting in coming months:

Annandale High Class of 1963 — July 20. www.annandale1963.com.

Eastern High Class of 1973 — Nov. 16. Contact: Beverly McCain Prince at bvprin@verizon.net.

Gaithersburg High Class of 1988 — Oct. 19. www.fivestarreunions.com.

Groveton High Class of 1963 — Sept. 2. Contact Donna Krout Markland at donnamarkland@cox.net.

Groveton High Class of 1973 — Sept. 28. Contact groveton1973@gmail.com.

Loudoun County High Class of 1963 — Sept. 7. Contact Dick Hickman at 540-338-2680.

Northwestern High Class of 1963 — Sept. 27-28. E-mail nhs1963@hotmail.com, or call Larry Felter at 703-620-4793.

Bishop Denis J. O’Connell Class of 1963 — Oct. 11-13. Contact Kathy Meade at kathy@rmeade.com or visit classreport.org/usa/va/arlington/bohs/1963/

Oakton (Vienna) High Class of 1973 — Aug. 17. Contact Don Rudzinski at drudzinski@cox.net.

Oxon Hill High Class of 1968 — Sept. 21. E-mail ohhs68@yahoo.com.

Spingarn High Class of 1963 — Oct. 25. Contact mayoearl24@yahoo.com.

H.D. Woodson Senior High Class of 1993 — Classes of 1991-94 welcome. Sept. 14. Contact Stephanie Wright at 804-536-5835 or e-mail hdwoodsonshsclassof93@yahoo.com.

Yorktown High Class of 2003 — Nov. 23. www.fivestarreunions.com.

Clean for a cause

Is your car’s windshield a scrim of haze? Has someone written “Wash Me” in the grime of your pickup’s tailgate? You need a carwash.

Well, sir and/or madam, you are in luck. This Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., members of the Magruder High School Leo Club will be washing cars at the 7-Eleven gas station at 15821 Frederick Rd. in Derwood. All proceeds will benefit Send a Kid to Camp. Said Karen Buscemi, the club’s sponsor and organizer of this annual event: “As usual, no set price, just whatever folks think a clean and shiny car is worth.”

If your car is spotless — or you don’t drive — there’s another swell way to show your support for Camp Moss Hollow, a summer camp for at-risk kids from the Washington area. Simply go to washingtonpost.com/camp and click where it says, “Give Now.” Or send a check, made payable to “Send a Kid to Camp,” to Send a Kid to Camp, Family Matters of Greater Washington, P.O. Box 200045, Pittsburgh, Pa. 15251-0045.

For previous columns, visit washingtonpost.com/johnkelly.