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Who We Are

Why We Do It.

D.A. Blodgett - St. John’s is dedicated to providing homes and hope for children.

It began with shelter in the 1880s of Grand Rapids, a community response to children in need. In the over 135 years since, we’ve been trusted by the community as an organization that understands and cares for children – adapting and innovating through time, always striving to collaborate and develop better ways to serve those who need our help.

DABSJ is an inclusive and welcoming organization for all children, all families, all individuals. Our continuum of care provides comprehensive programming built on our core belief, backed by research, that as long as children can be safe, they do best when they are with their families.

When you are part of the DABSJ community, you are part of a uniquely historic effort in West Michigan to help children and families!

One thing held true ever since DABSJ's founding in 1887: our relentless dedication to children and families. Our mission, vision, and values guide our work and bring us closer to the future we believe all children deserve.

Our Mission.

To help children and empower families by providing safety, advocacy, and support.

Our Vision.

A safe, nurturing home for every child, and a supportive community for every family.

Our Values.

Values are our core beliefs, the heart of our culture, and what will drive DABSJ to support kids and families with our full potential. Our stated vision is the guiding image of our success – part emotional, intending to inspire, and part rational, presenting a view of the future that everyone can believe in.

Exceptional Service

Client-focused collaboration at the center of our work

Two Hearts
Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion

All are welcomed, valued, and belong

Excellence

Ongoing commitment to learning and improvement

Integrity

Responsibility and ownership of our actions and results

Creativity

Imagination, innovation, and intelligent risk taking

Passion

Relentless positive energy toward our mission and vision

TRAUMA-RESPONSIVE CARE

Sanctuary.

At the heart of our work lies a profound reality: the trauma experienced by the children and families we serve. Understanding the impact of these experiences is crucial for creating safety and healing. The Sanctuary model is a nationally recognized framework for trauma-responsive care, and it’s the cornerstone of our culture. DABSJ began implementing the Sanctuary model in 2019 and was certified in 2024.

Our History.

From 1887 to today, DABSJ has grown and innovated to meet the needs of the times. It took two legacy organizations coming together, with one incredible mission to help children and families.

A Need for Homes.

In the 1880s, Grand Rapids enjoyed great prosperity as a commercial center fueled by the lumber industry. But a dark reality was also present: epidemics of typhus, diphtheria, scarlet fever, and cholera were sweeping through West Michigan, leaving behind a devastating impact on countless children.

As children found themselves without parents or homes, vulnerable and desperate for help, a group of compassionate community members rallied together – eventually forming two different organizations that each established facilities on Lafayette Avenue.

One was the D.A. Blodgett Home for Children, formed in 1887 by Jennie Blodgett and Emily Clark with the financial backing of Jennie’s husband, Delos Abiel (“D.A.”) Blodgett.

The other began with Bishop Henry Richter urging the Catholic community to establish an orphanage. A man in the lumber industry, John Clancy, bequeathed $60,000 in 1884 to realize Bishop Richter’s vision, and the Dominican Sisters came to Grand Rapids to manage the home and care for the children. In 1889, the St. John’s Orphan Asylum opened its doors.

Over the next three decades, both the D.A. Blodgett Home for Children and St. John’s Orphan Asylum expanded to accommodate the constant influx of children without parents or caregivers. In 1908, the Blodgetts constructed a grand building on Cherry Street, providing care and education to children from all backgrounds and faiths. However, it became increasingly evident to both the Blodgetts and the Dominican Sisters that mere custodial care had its limitations. They recognized that what these children truly needed was a loving family.

Shifting Philosophy and Services to Better Meet Children’s Needs.

By the early 1920s, foster programs were introduced at both institutions, marking a significant shift in their approach. The advancements in medicine and a growing acceptance of foster care and adoption gradually brought an end to the traditional concept of orphanages. However, new societal challenges emerged in the post-World War II era. Among rising alcoholism and drug use in families, children were facing violence, abuse, and neglect. More comprehensive support was needed.

D.A. Blodgett for Children added new prevention services for vulnerable families, mentoring programs with Big Brothers Big Sisters, and several more specialized foster, adoption, and community-based programs. Meanwhile, St. John’s Home began focusing exclusively on treating survivors of abuse in its residential treatment program, relocating to a new home-like campus on Knapp Street in 1992.

Coming Together for Kids.

The two historic organizations collaborated frequently. A child living at St. John’s would have their adoption done through D.A. Blodgett, or a child in foster care at D.A. Blodgett would come to St. John’s for treatment.

More and more, the two organizations seemed to be two pieces of a puzzle, fitting together to serve children. Recognizing the need for adaptation and collaboration, leaders from St. John’s Home and D.A. Blodgett for Children came together and decided to form one organization with comprehensive services. On January 1, 2010, the unification became official and D.A. Blodgett – St. John’s was formed.

The newly merged DABSJ became one of Michigan’s largest child welfare agencies, serving thousands of children and families. The organization continued to operate across two campuses – one on Knapp Street, one on Leonard Street.

In 2018, DABSJ launched the Together for Kids campaign, raising over $10 million dollars to expand the Knapp campus to Dean Lake Road and bring the entire DABSJ team together in one location. Upon completion of the campaign and construction in 2023, the team moved into a multi-use facility specially designed for the unique needs of our children and families.

Now truly together for kids, DABSJ is poised to serve greater numbers of children and families as we continue to grow and adapt to shifting needs in our community. We carry the legacy of our history with us, and remain ever-focused on those we are here to serve.

Our Leadership.

Team DABSJ is made up of over 200 dedicated individuals who have made it their mission to help children and families every day.

Executive Team

Colette Beighley

Chief Advancement Officer

Joel Bell

Chief Programs Officer

Karen Powell

Vice President of Employee Experience

Tammy Smith

Chief Financial Officer 

Board of Directors

  • India Manns, Chairperson – Community Volunteer
  • Ed Spillers, Vice Chairperson – Keller Williams
  • Brendan Geary, Secretary – RDV Corporation
  • Chelsea Sheafor, Treasurer – EHTC
  • Chris Armstrong – BDO
  • Amy Assenmacher – Corewell Health
  • Ryan Cook – Steelcase
  • Brian Hannon – Moore & Bruggink, Inc.
  • Rob Jandernoa – 42 North Partners
  • Jay C. Kakaty – Smith, Haughey, Rice & Roegge
  • Mallory Korpalski – Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP
  • Jeremy Michalson – Diamond Personnel
  • Sara Sherry-Knoester – Mixed Staffing & Recruiting
  • Monica Sparks – Kent County Board of Commissioners
  • Raphael Trujillo – Veterans Benefits Administration, U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs
  • Cindy VanGelderen – Accounting Professor Emeritus
  • Maggie York – Amway
  • Kate Sischo Zell – GE Aerospace

Advisory Council

  • William Alt – Retired CPA/Business Owner
  • Mike Bieker – Bieker Capital
  • Ann Busby – Retired Business Executive
  • Tripp Corl – Alloy Exchange
  • Brian Ellis – Brooktree Capital Management
  • Sr. Maureen Geary OP – Dominican Sisters – Grand Rapids
  • Patrick F. Geary – Smith, Haughey, Rice & Roegge
  • William R. Hineline – Varnum
  • Kathleen A. Holt – JPG Resources
  • Win Irwin – Irwin Seating
  • William Lawrence – 42 North Partners
  • Charles W. Lott – Wells Fargo Bank
  • Mick McGraw – Eastbrook Homes
  • Ray Reitsma – Mercantile Bank of Michigan
  • Brian Rudy – Engine Power Components, Inc.
  • Carla Sikkema – Community Volunteer
  • Michelle Van Dyke – Heart of West Michigan United Way
  • Chris Visner – Community Volunteer
  • William L. Waanders – ExecuQuest
  • James M. Weaver – M-Industries
  • Greg Willit – Benefits Resource Group

Emerging Leaders Council

  • Adam Anderson – Mercantile Bank
  • Sarah Harper Warner Norcross & Judd LLP
  • Nicholas S. LoMonaco – RDV Corporation
  • Arielle Major – SnapOne
  • Andrew Meyers – LaFleur & Godfrey Private Wealth Management
  • Ashley Mullen – PNC Bank
  • James P. Mullen – Universal Forest Products Industries
  • Carina M. VanderMeer – Priority Health

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Our Impact.

The kids we serve may grow up. But our mission will never grow old. For over 135 years, DABSJ supporters have come together to ensure children are safe, to strengthen families, and to build brighter futures.

View our most recent Form 990, financial statements, and audit. For previous years, visit our profile on Candid (formerly Guidestar)

DABSJ is inclusive and welcoming – from our team members, to the children we serve, to the families we license as foster parents. You could play a part in providing homes and hope for children who need a place to be themselves.