WINDSOR TERRACE — The Little Flower has grown quite a bit.
Little Flower Children and Family Services of New York, founded by Msgr. Bernard Quinn more than 90 years ago, is still going strong today.
According to Corinne Hammons, president and CEO, the non-profit organization has expanded its services over the decades but has remained true to its original mission.
“We certainly have a broader scope of services. When Msgr. Quinn founded Little Flower it was to help children. We now serve children and disabled adults,” Hammons said. “I believe Msgr. Quinn was a visionary and ahead of his time. He saw a need with the Brooklyn kids in his parish, and he met the need. And what’s so great is how that’s carried forward over 90 years later. That’s still the essence of our mission. We look for a need, and we meet it.”
In 1928, Msgr. Quinn founded an orphanage in Wading River. The property also included a summer camp for city kids. After the orphanage was burned to the ground twice, Msgr. Quinn had it rebuilt. In 1930, the orphanage was re-dedicated and given the name Little Flower House of Providence.
Today, Little Flower provides a myriad of services, including foster care, adoption, programs and services for developmentally disabled adults, and medical and mental health services.
In 2019, Little Flower expanded its mission further by entering into an affiliation agreement with St. John’s Residence for Boys, a home for abused and neglected young men in the Rockaways.
“I think what has changed and expanded is that we provide community-wide services. A child doesn’t need to reside with us in order for us to provide services, whether it’s coordinating their medical care or making sure they’re safely in a foster home. So I feel like we’ve expanded in concentric circles, but very much true to his vision,” Hammons said of Msgr. Quinn.
A few years ago, the organization consolidated all of its Brooklyn operations into its headquarters in the historic 19th-century Pfizer building on Flushing Avenue in Williamsburg.
Father Patrick West, vice chairman of the Board of Directors, said Msgr. Quinn laid the groundwork for what was to come. “The foundation that he set up lent itself to providing what the agency provides for now,” said Father West, the pastor of St. Sebastian Church in Woodside.
Little Flower serves approximately 2,000 people a year. The organization has around 600 full-time and part-time employees.
Little Flower refers to St. Therese of Lisieux, the French saint often called “The Little Flower of Jesus.” Msgr. Quinn came to revere her when he served as an army chaplain in France in 1918.
In the beginning, Little Flower primarily served black children in St. Peter Claver Church. Msgr. Quinn, the founding pastor, was deeply concerned about their welfare and wanted to give them a chance in life.
“His legacy is very much talked about and very much woven into the culture of the organization, especially the values that he’s brought forward to us,” Hammons said.
The Wading River campus has been expanded. “Today, we have cottages on that very campus that has about 100 kids. But we also have day services and residential services for disabled adults there on campus, as well as administrative offices,” Hammons said.
Father West, who is the former pastor of St. Peter Claver Church and has been on the Board of Directors of Little Flower for about 25 years, said he often talks about Msgr. Quinn’s work.
“When we talk to people about joining the board, I’m always encouraging them to be aware of our roots,” he said.
Another sign of Msgr. Quinn’s enduring legacy: Employees who work at the Wading River campus drive to work each day on “Msgr. Bernard Quinn Way,” a road named after him that leads to the campus.
While Little Flower strives to stay true to its roots as an organization founded in the Catholic tradition of service, the agency serves clients of all religions, Hammons said.