Our History

josiah white
Our heritage began when Josiah White, a Philadelphia Quaker set out after his dream – to provide shelter and guidance for orphaned youth. His vision turned into reality in 1851 when White’s Iowa Manual Labor Institute opened its doors. Over the years the institute served many children and evolved into Quakerdale. Journey with us throughout the years as we share our story with you.

The Quakerdale dream comes alive…

1781-1850          Founder Joseph White had a dream to use his wealth to    help those less fortunate. White believed strongly in education, especially to learn a trade and thus earn a living. He proposed founding a manual training school where poor children, White, African American, and Indian might receive a religious education in accordance with the teachings of his fellow Quaker Friends. Josiah provided a $ 40,000.00 endowment in his will. In 1851, 1440 acres of prairie land in Lee County around Salem, Iowa fulfilled a start to White’s dream.

1851-1929           This period of time found many challenges to Josiah White’s vision. The years experienced a time of poor crop conditions and financial depression all over the country. With the financial help of the Legislature, a plan to lease the facilities to the state as a reform school was ratified. Through the next few years, the program found itself on a financial rollercoaster. By 1921, the dilemma for the home hit a critical junction. To add more drama, a fire broke out and leveled the structure. These events lead the trustees to an evaluation and concluded better opportunities might be found elsewhere.

1929-1964           The new location was chosen after a special invitation from the New Providence Friends offered their central Iowa community as the new site. New Providence, Iowa became the new home as the trustees accepted their offer, rearranged a land deal, and in the fall of 1940, a dormitory to house thirty boys and an adult staff became Quakerdale Farms- maintained by White’s Iowa Manual Labor Institute. The child welfare agencies and courts of the state welcomed the opportunity to place children in this Christian farm home, operated by terms set in Josiah White’s will.

1964-1981           Under the direction of Richard Whitehead, the home flourished. Capacity increased from twenty-one to twenty-six and occupancy was consistently near capacity. The dormitory was remodeled after twenty-three years of use along with a new home for the superintendent. Open houses provided the opportunity for local community members to visit and see firsthand what Quakerdale was providing their youth.  A new building was constructed for girls in 1967. One of the concerns of Whitehead was the lack of a good home when the children left Quakerdale. In 1980, that problem was solved as a statewide foster care program was established.

1981-2000            M.R. Whitehead’s comments about this period explain the different facets of Quakerdale. “These ten years from 1981 to 1990 were a time when our numbers of youth and families increased, our facilities increased, and our staff numbers increased. During this time, our ministry expanded to facilities in Waterloo, Manning, and the Wolfe Ranch east of Marshalltown. The not-so-fun parts included inadequate state funding and imposed state regulations that were difficult and unreasonable to meet.” The state funding trend continued and forced Quakerdale to look for other sources of funding, primarily private donations from individuals and planned gifts.

2000-2012            Program development realized the changes occurring in the arena of youth services. Quakerdale’s  response  included the creation of innovative approaches to educate with alternative venues while maintaining the spiritual element. Thus, the Promise Academy, as an alternative education experience, with a prep basketball team and a sustainable  program available has proven quite successful. In addition, an equine therapy program at the Wolfe Ranch has shown great promise, as youth and families find solutions to their problems caring and learning about horses. With our focus on community, another popular program, called Mobile Camp, provides a Christian- based day camp for youth in various communities across Iowa for an entire week in summer. Each of the programs relies on local community support as the legislative budget cutbacks present financial challenges. Our goal to fulfill Josiah White’s dream is kept alive with dedicated volunteers, our committed staff, and individual donors with big hearts that believe in helping provide a safe environment for youth to get on track, grow and learn. Not only youth, but for families and the community it is truly a new day at Quakerdale.  Josiah White’s dream lives on.

Quakerdale’s long history of caring has been made possible by thousands of generous donors, staff, and friends.  Quakerdale is owned by the Iowa Yearly Meetings of Friends and is governed by a nine-member Board of Trustees.

If you are interested in a more descriptive history of Quakerdale we suggest that you purchase a copy of “The Caring Continues” by Jane Whitehead for $10 by calling 641-497-5294.

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