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200+ Come Out for St. Agatha Reunion

They all met up during the Nanuet Family Festival on Saturday June 6, 2011
[By Kim Tran]

It’s the late 1960s and children waited for the weekend to watch for that familiar bus. Off the bus steps their parents who traveled from New York City to Nanuet to visit with their kids for a few hours under the gazebo pavilion at the St. Agatha Home.

St. Agatha Home was a group home for destitute children. Children who were street kids in New York City, Children who were homeless or orphans, Children whose immigrant parents could no longer care for them.

Fast Forward to June 4, 2011. The same pavilion, under which children would visit with their parents, was now a gathering place of over 200 people for a reunion of St. Agatha children and their family and friends. Today, the school buildings and dormitories are gone and the land was renamed the Nanuet Outdoor Education Center after the Nanuet School District bought it.

“Parents would come up on the weekends from the George Washington Bridge and we’d visit with them at the gazebos,” said Reunion Organizer Nancy Canfield. There was a green Peter Pan charter bus in the parking lot of the St. Agatha Gym—today it is the Nanuet Family Resource Gym.

“When I came down that road on that bus today, I was just taken back,” said Robert Corbett, who was a St. Agatha child from 1952-68 and came all the way from Minnesota for this reunion. “Although the homes are not there, I still remember them. At one time, there was as much as 1,700 kids at St. Agatha.” “We try to do it (the reunion) once a year,” said Canfield, adding that the last reunion was in 2008. The recent economic downturn and the fact that the St. Agatha kids are all grown and live in different parts of the country and world, a reunion is difficult to put together. Canfield currently lives in San Diego and is also the author of a book that details the history of the St. Agatha Home: Home Kids, the Story of St. Agatha Home for Children.

“My brother and I lived at St. Agatha from March 1965 to 1968; then I went to a foster home in the Bronx. There were at one time, 170 buildings that were absorbed from the community like farm houses and others were built, like the (St. Agatha) Gym.”

The Maldonado family of four siblings currently live in NYC, but came up for this event. They lived at St. Agatha from 1965-71. “This is our first time participating in this reunion,” said Andre Maldonado. “There are lots of good memories. It was a good place to go for children. Good programs for kids and very constructive.”

Inside the gym, songs from the 60s and 70s were played and several were dancing away. “The music is a big part of their youth. We used to have Friday night dances. It was a big part of our lifestyle,” said Canfield. “It (the reunion) is a tremendous experience and it varies for everyone.”

Did you go?