Ballantyne Magazine covers news, events, real estate, restaurants, shopping, health, schools and business in the upscale Ballantyne Area of Charlotte, NC.
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Inspirational Legacy Elon Name in Ballantyne Long Tied to Helping Children By Nan Bauroth BALLANTYNE DATES ITS FORMAL ROOTS as a community to the 1990s, but the area was long home to others, including youngsters in desperate straits who were provided a safe haven at Elon Homes for Children. It once occupied the 120- acre site that is now home to Elon Park Elementary School and Elon Park. The little-known story of how the children's home came to be built here began in 1961 when Fred Johnson Kennedy Jr., an intrepid social worker and counselor in the Mecklenburg County juvenile court system, saw many boys in such terrible plights that they had to be removed from their homes. Convinced state correctional facilities only made their situations worse, Kennedy determined to build a residential unit where these youngsters could put their lives back together in a secure, nurturing setting. To achieve his dream, Kennedy assembled Charlotte philanthropists and community leaders to raise funds. Notables included Jim Babb, then CEO and president of Jeferson- Pilot Communications; business consultant Ty Boyd; Charlotte Observer columnist Kays Gary; and attorney Gaston H. Gage. Thanks to their eforts and the generosity of others, in 1970 Kennedy opened the frst cottage of a haven he named Boys Town. Stable Environment "My father wanted a stable environment where these boys could live and grow up," says David Kennedy, who now serves on the Board of Governors of Elon Homes and Schools for Children. He recalls living with eight of the boys in that frst cottage during the summer of 1971 when he was only fve years old and his father was searching for foster parents for Boys Town. "The cottage was way of Ardrey Kell Road," he recalls. Sadly, Fred Kennedy never lived to see his full dream come true, passing away in the early 1970s at only 39. "The day slated for the groundbreaking of a gymnasium at Boys Town ended up being the day of his funeral," Kennedy says. In 1985 The Duke Endowment helped Boys Town merge with Elon Homes for Children, established in 1905 by the Southern Convention of Christian Churches at Elon College, located just west of Burlington, N.C. Boys Town became the Kennedy Campus of the larger organization, and in 1987 the frst girls were admitted. In 1995, a privately licensed school was created on the grounds to meet the children's specifc needs. Selling the Land Three years later, the school and Elon Homes moved to Sharon Road West. "We owe much to Gaston Gage," says Jane Grosse, vice president of institutional advancement for the nonproft. "He negotiated the purchase of the (Ballantyne- area) acreage for $140,000 and then sold it for $9 million, providing us with signifcant funds." Today, Elon Homes and Schools for Children — which has transitioned to one of the largest and most respected resources for foster care of children who are in Department of Social Services custody — is entirely located on the campus of Johnson C. Smith University in west Charlotte. "I love telling my father's story," Kennedy says, noting that his mother, Gail Kennedy, is still involved with the organization. "Dad gave those boys the chance to be like other kids, to give them hope for a brighter future." "My father wanted a stable environment where these boys could live and grow up." — David Kennedy BALLANTYNE MAGAZINE 63 SPRING 2016