Greenbriar Children's Center Honored by Urban Christian Academy
Thursday, July 13th, 2017
The Urban Christian Academy gave tribute to the descendants of Adeline Graham, Greenbriar Children’s Center staff, and Gamma Sigma Omega chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. during its Urban Honors Night celebration last month at The Stage on Bay in downtown Savannah.
Elder and Pastor Charles Gordon and the Honors Committee of Urban Christian Academy voted unanimously to honor the work of Greenbriar Children’s Center at this event. In attendance were Greenbriar staff and board leaders, former residents of the center, the nonprofit organization’s very first resident and the descendants of the Greenbriar’s founder, Adaline Graham.
Like many of its residents and beneficiaries, Greenbriar has humble beginnings. Graham, a well-known Savannah philanthropist, died and left property and funds to whomever might start a movement to establish an orphanage for African-American children. So, as a community service project in 1943, five young African-American women of the Gamma Sigma Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority decided to utilize the funds and established a children’s center as Graham had specified in his will. The sorority solicited the assistance of the Rev. Ralph Mark Gilbert, then pastor of First African Baptist Church, as it was also stipulated in the will that the black Protestant churches be involved in establishing and providing ongoing support of the orphanage.
In 1944, the group purchased a tract of land on West 50th Street, where they planned to build the facility. On June 8, 1944, using an additional $4,500 donated by the Graham estate, Greenbriar Children’s Center was founded. It opened on July 15, 1949 with a cottage-style building that accommodated 20 children and a private apartment for a resident housemother. In May 1954, the 15-acre tract on which Greenbriar now stands on Hopkins Street was purchased for $17,000. The center began accepting children of all races in 1964.
“It was a wonderful experience to have our staff honored alongside the descendants and supporters of those who first envisioned Greenbriar Children’s Center and the organization that brought that vision to fruition,” Greenbriar Executive Director Gena Taylor said. “We are grateful for the recognition. Without Adaline Graham and her family, we wouldn’t be here today. And without the support of places like Urban Christian Academy and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, we wouldn’t be able to continue our mission.”