The Sheltering Arms Story
In the late 1800s, visionary Deaconess Annette Relf realized more had to be done to help care for Minnesota’s youngest and most vulnerable citizens. As Minnesota’s first Episcopal sister, she founded Sheltering Arms Orphanage in 1883 and set forth on a mission to create a safe haven for abandoned or homeless children be loved and cared for. Her work and love for children - particularly those who were sick, homeless or poor - made an impact on thousands of Minnesotans.
Following her death, Relf’s legacy was carried on by staff, family and friends who also were committed to helping improve the lives of Minnesota children. The Orphanage became a Hospital caring primarily for young polio victims. After World War II, the Hospital was transformed into a School focused on meeting developmentally disabled children’s needs.
Forming a Foundation
Sheltering Arms realized that Minnesota children’s need for assistance remained constant, yet their specific needs were evolving along with societal change. More and more nonprofit organizations were forming to address specific needs of children and families in local communities. And, public schools were playing a greater role in educating children faced with developmental challenges. Changes such as these prompted Sheltering Arms to reincorporate as The Sheltering Arms Foundation in 1983.
Since 1983, the Foundation has awarded over 1,150 grants, totaling over $15 million. A few years ago, the Sheltering Arms Foundation decided that in addition to funding direct service work on behalf of children, it wanted to impact public policy that affected vulnerable children and families.
We seek to affect public policy and larger systems affecting children and families and the nonprofits that assist them. We also seek to build public awareness on the changing landscape for children and families in Minnesota. We do this by funding organizations to advocate on behalf of children, partnering with local and national organizations working to educate legislators, and by providing training opportunities for our grantees and other nonprofits so they can advocate for themselves.