Family Services is founded on the actions of one compassionate woman, Miss Annie Wiley Grogan (May 16, 1878–October 6, 1957). Founder’s 139th birthday brings to mind origins of Family Services
“Miss Annie” worked as a telephone operator at the turn of the twentieth century in Winston, North Carolina. As she managed her switchboard, Miss Annie was moved by the heartbreaking stories of families struggling with poverty and sickness. She went door-to-door, giving pennies from her paycheck, and delivered food and clothing to poverty-stricken areas of the community. In instances of need, it was common for city residents to say that it was time to “go see Miss Annie Grogan.”
Miss Annie became known as one of the first social workers in the city. Her simple acts of kindness inspired a dedicated group of community leaders to form the Associated Charities of Winston in 1905. During her 31-year career with the agency, Grogan served as its first secretary, the equivalent of an executive director. She was the only paid employee during the agency’s first eight years. Her starting salary was $20 each month, and she agreed to house the office in the home that she shared with her sister’s family at 518 North Cherry Street.
Often, the demand for food, clothing, shelter and money to pay for essentials such as rent outstripped the resources of Associated Charities. However, that did not stop Miss Annie and her volunteers. She collaborated with clergy, doctors, individuals and the police to supplement the agency’s ability to meet growing needs. In 1923, she founded the Community Chest, a forerunner of the United Way.
Miss Annie never married. She did not have children of her own. Yet, upon her death in 1957 at the age of 79, The Winston-Salem Journal recognized her as the city’s “Mother in Charity.” In 2014, the Triad Business Journal identified her as one who helped to shape Winston-Salem, yesterday and today.
Today, Miss Annie’s outreach to families has expanded through the work of the agency she founded. Her vision continues to drive the Family Services’ work to serve the complex difficulties of all families in our community, especially the support of preschool children and their families who face unrelenting challenges as a result of living in poverty.
As the original community convener, catalyst, and collaborator, Miss Annie has inspired Family Services to work with action-minded leaders, faith communities, businesses, agencies, and foundations to cultivate a community of solutions toward a hopeful future. By enlisting an unprecedented network of partnerships Family Services is generating innovative ways to build a more sustainable community.
Family Services is also bringing together individuals who are deeply committed to addressing the educational, physical, social and economic needs of families in our community. Together they form a growing community of support, called the Grogan Society. These champions stand side by side with the agency’s earliest leaders, whose bold vision for strong families and a healthy community in 1905 continues today as Family Services enters a new era that will:
- Enhance and expand early childhood development for every child, and
- Eliminate family violence and child abuse.
Inspired by Family Services’ vision for the community, members of the Grogan Society make an annual unrestricted gift of $1,000 or more to the agency’s annual giving program. In 2015, the Grogan Society had 12 members. Today, on the celebration of Miss Annie’s 139th birthday, 105 members have dedicated themselves to continuing her legacy and building a better future for all of us.
Community change is dependent upon community engagement. And our community is coming together as never before to create opportunities so that more children and their families can thrive and reach their full potential.
Happy Birthday, Miss Annie!