Soaring higher: Eagle Village’s mission evolves over 50 years

In this historical photo, boys at Eagle Village shoot arrows on the archery range. Today, Eagle Village provides a variety of programs and services for children and families. (Courtesy photo)

This is the second piece of a three-part series about Eagle Village, its programs and services, as well as its past and outlook for the future. The final part will appear in Saturday’s edition of the Pioneer.

HERSEY — Sally (not her real name) smiles wildly as she announces she just graduated.

It was an achievement she never thought would actually happen.

Moving from place to place in foster care, Sally lost high school credits despite passing her courses. Thankfully, Sally was able to recapture some of the credits she lost and completed the requirements to graduate from Eagle Village’s on-campus high school less than two weeks ago.

“I had six credits when I came here,” Sally said. “Now I have a job.”

Days after graduating from high school, Sally began learning administrative skills inside the Holbrook Administrative Building on Eagle Village’s campus.

Prudhomme

Sally lives just a few steps from her job, with other older youth who are either completing their high school educations or actually working at Eagle Village. Together, inside their residence, they’re responsible for cooking, daily chores, cleaning up for themselves and preparing themselves for life outside of Eagle Village.

“I’m learning how to be self-sufficient and rely on myself for life after this,” she said.

Sally is one of many youth who is part of one of Eagle Village’s residential programs, which houses youth to complete high school and begin learning career skills.

Eagle Village provides of wide range of community and residential services, from foster care and adoption, assessments, intervention camps and Victor’s Edge community resiliency program.

Each is aimed at providing children the best environment of their life and a pathway toward success, said Cathey Prudhomme, Eagle Village president.

“Our uniqueness and distinctiveness, is we were founded on Christian principles, and we believe that the kids need to have a vision outside of of themselves and understand they are created for a purpose and connect them to what their potential is,” she said.

Prudhomme said Eagle Village utilizes an experiential model for its programs, which is action-oriented to help kids understand on how to be successful through different experiences.

Many throughout the area may know Eagle Village more by its name rather than by what services the nearly 200 staff provide to children from all backgrounds.

“Many know us for the door they walk through,” Prudhomme said. “It may be through adoption and family services or summer camps.”

Eagle Village founders Jean and Kermit Hainley traveled from California and began the camp as a place for juvenile delinquents between 15 and 17 to help get them on the right path and make great decisions. (Courtesy photo)

From rustic cabins and state-of-the-art facilities for psychological assessments and classrooms, Eagle Village provides of wide range of community and residential services for children and their families.

Some people, Prudhomme said, may know Eagle Village as the place were “bad” kids go.

“That’s part of our history,” she said, “but today at Eagle Village, we layer different experiences with evidence-based therapeutic approaches — using a trauma-informed environment, individual therapy with licensed therapists and a lot of cognitive behavioral approaches, including a very positive-based and very-nurturing environment, which differentiates from the traditional juvenile justice approach, which is more control and punitive.

“Our approach is the kids have ownership and is goal-based, rather than punishment. We establish a path to success for them, having them decide what they are going to do and what can they do to address what’s holding them back.”

It wasn’t always that case. For many years, the 680 acres in Osceola County served as a placement center for juvenile delinquents.

More than 50 years ago, Kermit Hainley and his family lived in California, where he was working for a juvenile detention center.

“He got discouraged with not being able to truly make an impact on the kids and seeing them coming,” explained Prudhomme, Hainley’s daughter. “He said, ‘Basically, I need to get into this where I can make an impact or I need to go sell shoes. I can’t live in this place where I’m part of a broken system.'”

The chapel at Eagle Village plays an important part of the spiritual foundation for children and families, which continues to be an integral part of programs since it was founded in 1968. (Pioneer photo/Brandon Fountain)

Prudhomme said her family packed up and moved away from California, finally settling in 1968 on the current land of Eagle Village.

“It was the same time as racial tensions and riots were happening in Detroit,” she recalled. “We were in the process of building the first facility, and the target initially was to focus on juvenile delinquents between 15 and 17, to help get them on the right path and make great decisions.”

At the time, Prudhomme said her father spoke with judges in the Saginaw, Bay City and Midland areas, who expressed their concerns to Hainley.

“They all said Eagle Village was a great idea that my dad was doing, but the summer was starting and there was nothing for these kids to do and they were going to get into trouble,” she explained. “They opened the first summer camp and that’s how we got into summer camps.”

At the end of the summer as the first building on the property had not been completed, Prudhomme said, there were five kids committed to Eagle Village for the year.

“That’s how we first got started,” Prudhomme said. “And those first five kids ended up staying in the community when they left Eagle Village.”

When the first residential homes were built in the early 1970s on the property, Prudhomme said, growth was incredibly quick.

“Today, we don’t serve as many juvenile delinquents,” she said. “Most of our kids are in the foster care and residential programs.”

Children arrive at Eagle Village through referrals from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and some local courts.

With more than 50 years of fostering to the different needs of children, Prudhomme said what Eagle Village does continues to be successful for the children.

“We are constantly asked, ‘How do you know what you do works?'” she said. “The simple answer is, how do any of us know with our children and family what we are doing will work? We care for them the best we know how, provide them information and a variety of different experiences.”

Prudhomme said Eagle Village staff strive to provide those experiences in the best environment for the children.

“We’re revisioning for the future and becoming more and more of what we need to be for our kids, and building our staff on trainings and partnerships,” she said. “We partner with Mecosta and Osceola Departments of Health and Human Services, and they’ve been great, as well as the schools and the courts. We still work with kids from the courts, but it’s a different approach versus where we started.

“We have a goal to assimilate them as best they can so when they leave Eagle Village they are ready and realize, ‘this is the world I was expecting.'”

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Posted by Brandon Fountain

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