During the 1920’s, (aka, the "Jazz Age"), financial speculation in the US drove the price of stocks so far beyond rational valuations that a correction was inevitable. It happened on Black Tuesday, October 29, 1929, the day the stock market crashed.

The Roaring Twenties ended and the Great Depression began, lasting until 1939. During the Great Depression 9,000 banks went out of business. Because at that time bank accounts were not insured, the savings of 9 million Americans simply vanished. Citizens had no money for purchases, so businesses lost customers and closed. Massive business closures forced people into unemployment. Significant poverty spread across the nation forcing families into transient lifestyles.

The ’30’s were hard years. In his second inaugural address on January 20th, 1937, President Franklin D. Roosevelt said, "I see one-third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished." Some who had been millionaires during the booming 1920’s scrambled on the streets to sell apples and pencils to make it from day to day.

In the middle of the desperate, bleak years of the Great Depression, Robert W. Vaughan, Superintendent of Louisiana Methodist Orphanage, wrote in his 1935 annual report, "This has been a year fraught with much anxiety, sadness and disappointment …"

He continued,

"The mounting cost of necessities, with the meager increase in donations, came so near wiping out our balance that it seemed we must curtail our work in a way that would prove disastrous. The death of one of our most promising younger boys, J. D. Bratton, and the deaths of many nobel friends of our cause have cast a continual shadow of sorrow about our work."

"The refusal of the railroads to longer convey our Thanksgiving cars is a keen disappointment and may prove embarrassing to our work. Yet we are still unencumbered with indebtedness, our children are vigorous and healthy, and we have many blessings for which we are profoundly grateful."

Graciously, even while struggling in their own financial straits, people were supportive of our ministry during the Great Depression. Vaughan reported,

"Our physicians decided that, during the summer months, it would be well to operate on all children needing tonsils and adenoids removed, and 110 underwent operations, while two others were operated upon for appendicitis. The Kiwanis Club of Ruston assumed all hospital expenses attending the operations for tonsils and adenoids, and the work was done by Doctors Crawford and Green, without charge to the Orphanage. We are profoundly grateful to these friends."

However, even with the strong support Louisiana Methodist Orphanage received during the Great Depression, financial stress reigned. Vaughan reported the year ended with an "alarmingly small balance of $596.51" in cash on hand.

He continued,

"This situation, due largely to the mounting cost of living expenses, the refusal of the railroads to carry our Thanksgiving donations as heretofore, and the fact that we will be compelled to pay our teachers, greatly increased our cash expenditures, and the additional fact that many of our most liberal supporters have either lost their fortunes or passed on, render our task almost or quite impossible."

"Our frank judgment is that we are confronted with a situation that will compel drastic curtailment of our work, or the complete abandonment of the Institution. During the year a serious drouth (sic) greatly injured our crops, but we are making a good crop of sweet potatoes. The spring gardens were good, and we succeeded in putting up over two thousand cans of tomatoes and beans. We still maintain a good herd of cattle and have an abundant supply of milk and butter. We also have a fine lot of hogs for our winter meat, and poultry for eggs."

He ended the report,

"It is with deep regret that I present this report, one of the most discouraging of my twenty-seven years of labor with the Orphanage. I can present no encouraging plan, or suggest a way out of our difficulties … look to our Heavenly Father in confident hope that some way may be found, so that our great work may survive …"

Today, eighty years later, the "great work" survives.

People pay attention to the past for many reasons; they may long for the "good old days" or they desire a simpler life. Others who move forward will search the past to learn from the lessons of others. One obvious lesson of the Home’s history is that regardless of the circumstances, God has sustained this ministry.

Continued blessings carry with them incredible responsibilities. Each of us who do this "great work" have inherited the mission and the attending responsibilities. We’re here for good reason!

Rick Wheat
President and CEO

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