The Christian Home Association was born from a specific need. In 1881, a flood in Council Bluffs, Iowa left many residents weakened, many of whom were already struggling financially. In the wake of that disaster were many helpless widows with little or no means to care for their children, destitute elderly persons and orphans. By late 1882, the situation had grown quite alarming.
On the evening of November 3, 1882, Reverend Joseph Goff Lemen addressed a large congregation at the First Baptist Church in Council Bluffs. He related his experiences with the countless poverty-stricken families in the city. In his sermon, Reverend Lemen gave several examples of the poverty and challenged his listeners to visit these unfortunate people. The Pastor then appealed to the group for goods and financial assistance to help the poor and friendless.
“Let us give liberally and God will bless us for it,” he proclaimed. Donations were gathered after the service as church women were urged to meet weekly to sew for the poor. Soon, Reverend Lemen’s church was a clearinghouse for the poor who needed clothing, food, fuel and medical attention. The effort was enhanced by every church and charitable organization in the City.
On December 23, 1882, a man, whose name is unknown, had lost both his wife and his employment. He was left alone with the care of his three little girls. He approached Rev. Lemen and his wife Florence at their home and begged them to take his young daughters. Rev. Lemen resisted, but the man declared that he could not properly care for his children and insisted that they remain with the Lemens. Rev. and Mrs. Lemen took the girls into their home on that cold winter day and from there the legacy of the Christian Home Association-Children’s Square U.S.A. was begun.