For 110 years, Cathedral Home for Children has served as a refuge, sanctuary and place of healing for more than 20,000 youth from across Wyoming and around the country.
In honor of the anniversary on Sunday, longtime benefactor Sally Biegert and former executive director Robin Haas have written an historical book about the home and its legacy of service and dedication to vulnerable children.
“Keeping the Promise” is a 380-page work that draws on historical documents dating back to the Cathedral Home’s founding in 1910. Biegert started the project together with her late husband Jeff. Both served on the board at different times starting in 1999, and over the years their service has taken many forms and grown to include their three daughters.
“I made a promise to him to get it done, and now it’s done,” Sally Biegert said of the book.
She collaborated with Haas, who spent more than 40 years at the home in various capacities, including 13 years as the executive director.
Biegert said she hopes the book will serve as a history of the institution, a tribute to the people who have kept it going over the decades and a guide for future board members, staff and donors.
“We wanted to make sure that generations in the future would have a road map of where they have been so they know where they’re going in the future,” she said.
Haas’s research included journals, newsletters, records and board minutes from the Cathedral Home’s collection as well as documents from 120 boxes of archives of the Episcopal Diocese of Wyoming, which are stored at the University of Wyoming American Heritage Center.
The Cathedral Home for Children was founded by the Episcopal Church in 1910 as an orphanage after Archdeacon Ernest Dray acquired two children who had been abandoned at a train station in Lander.
“They had no place to go with these children, so they had to send them to Colorado,” Biegert said. “The archdeacon decided that was never going to happen in Wyoming. They were going to take care of their own children.”
In the 1970s, the home transitioned into a residential treatment center for youth from 12-18 years old and moved to its current location a couple miles north of Laramie on Wyoming Highway 30. The complex includes a chapel, school, horse barn and numerous cottages where residents live together in small groups.
The Cathedral Home also runs the Laramie Youth Crisis Center, which offers temporary shelter and intervention for families.
Biegert said she was impressed with the tenacity of the home’s caretakers during its earliest years and indeed across its entire history. There was never an era when balancing the budget was easy.
“There were many times, I’m sure, when they wanted to close those doors, but there was always at least one person to keep this going,” she said.
Haas said that during her research she repeatedly encountered examples of the uniqueness of the Cathedral Home among similar institutions. She described it has a true home for children who hadn’t ever known such a thing.
“I never knew how good it was until I went back and read letters from the people who were with the kids,” she said. “It was truly beyond what I had known.”
“Keeping the Promise” is available for purchase at Second Story Books, 105 Ivinson Ave.