Mrs. Randolph Guggenheimer, Editor
Boy and girl vagrants wandering through the country, homeless, without employment, riding the freight cars, living in the dumps of great cities, neglected, shunned, developing anti-social habitsâ€”that is the tragic picture that two recent important sociological books have revealed for us. And while one still wonders how society can so criminally neglect these youthful waifs, one hears with justified pride of one institution whichâ€”not merely satisfied with the usual philanthropic work it is doingâ€”has risen to the emergency of the unemployment crisis in a truly splendid way. This is Fellowship House, an “after care” institution, helping orphaned boys and girls discharged from Pleasantville or private families at the age of sixteen to adapt themselves to the problems of adult life.
Fellowship House works under the leadership of Miss Sarah Sussman, who has been with this institution for sixteen years, serving the last twelve as its executive secretary. When early in 1932 the depression reached its peak Miss Sussman felt that Fellowship House had to meet the situation with new activities. With admirable insight and energy she created the “work camp,” which takes care of the problem in so splendid a manner that a detailed picture of the routine there is of great interest to everyone connected with the youth problem of our country. Miss Sussman tells us:
FIRST CAMP IN 1932
“Our first work camp, near Kings Park, Long Island, was started in the summer of 1932, exactly one year before the Civilian Conservation Corps was organized by the Federal Government. Last summer, a number of our boys under nineteenâ€”the older ones had enlisted in the reforestation campsâ€”were once more organized into such a camp.
“The Jewish Agricultural Society secured for us another abandoned farm near Somerville, N. J., and Mr. Alexander Fishman, who had organized and supervised our first venture, went out again in charge of the fifty-odd campers. He was assisted by four volunteer counsellors. The group consisted of three distinct types: those who had work experience, those who had not yet had their first job, and high school boys who had to maintain themselves over the Summer. The first arrivals reconditioned the chicken houses, repaired the roofs, cleaned and washed the entire farm and disposed of the rubbish accumulated for years. They built a kitchen, mess hall and store house in the dilapidated barn and reinforced the walls by making old rafters and beams serve very ingeniously. They did splendid plumbing work, cleaned out an artesian well and thus procured fine and healthy water. In short the boys learned to help themselves under primitive and often trying circumstances. Some of them in addition to the camp work did chores for the neighboring farmers and village stores, earning a small remuneration that came most often in the form of food products. An appeal to the Emergency Work Bureau brought a generous response in the shape of plentiful groceries and an expert cook.
“Recreation was taken care of. The boys played baseball, read, rested, and swam. They did wood carving, gave plays and held mock-trials. Instead of becoming depressed, disgruntled or discouraged, they led a healthy, active life preparing them to meet coming normal times in a normal spirit. On July 1st, we opened a work camp in North Branch, N. J., thus continuing our work in this direction for a third season.”
There is nothing that can be added to the report of such splendid stewardship. In giving the young Jewish boy this chance to overcome the baleful influence of the depression, Miss Sussman and her co-workers do a work of tremendous importance. Only years hence will the country reap the full benefit of this work. It will bless these who in generously answering the need of the present movement have at the same time built for a better future.