On Friday, the Sisters of St. Francis of Mary Immaculate (Joliet Franciscan Sisters) announced they are selling the Guardian Angel Home building and property at Theodore Street and Plainfield Road. The USF board of trustees approved the purchase, for an undisclosed price, at its April 10 meeting.
The former orphanage will become the new home of USF's nursing college, while Guardian Angel Community Services will move its operations to a new building, located at 168 N. Ottawa St. near the Joliet Public Library downtown branch.
Guardian Angel CEO Ines Kutlesa said the organization currently rents the building from the Sisters of St. Francis, which founded Guardian Angel in 1897. The program moved into the landmark brick building in 1926.
Sister Dolores Zemont, president of Sisters of St. Francis of Mary Immaculate, said she's glad the building will remain in the Franciscan family.
"We are also grateful that Guardian Angel Community Services has found a new home," she said in a statement issued last week. “This means that two of the very first and longest ministries of the Sisters of St. Francis will continue to prosper in the future." In addition to founding Guardian Angel, the sisters also founded the University of St. Francis in 1920.
The purchase does not include the Franciscan Learning Center, which is also located on the site and will continue at its current location.
Guardian Angel plans to move into its new home on Ottawa Street this summer. After renovating the existing building, the USF nursing program will move into the Guardian Angel site in fall 2016.
Originally founded as a home for orphaned and neglected children, Guardian Angel has expanded its programs to meet the needs of the community over its 116-year history. It ceased operating as an orphanage in 1970s, when the Sisters of St. Francis determined that the greatest needs had moved to the areas of services for emotionally disturbed children and children in crisis. In response, the Sisters opened residential treatment and shelter care and expanded into community-based services for children and families. In 1973, Guardian Angel Home was incorporated and became a licensed, child welfare agency and in 2005 Guardian Angel Home became Guardian Angel Community Services (GACS).
Donations will offset moving costs
Kutlesa estimated that moving expenses will cost Guardian Angel upwards of $60,000. The organization, a United Way of Will County agency, is asking for donations to help offset the costs.
Kutlesa reflected on the big move in an appeal letter sent to Guardian Angel supporters, noting that, for years, many people have referred to the home as "the big, beautiful brick building up on the hill."
"Every day, we are fortunate to be a part of so many wonderful memories being made; those of healing, triumph and most of all ... new beginnings," Kutlesa wrote. "The time has come for GACS to embark on a new journey toward the creation of our own 'new beginning' and we hope you will join us in support of our endeavors."
Kutlesa said while the new location is ideal in terms of accessibility and continuity of services, it comes with significant costs, including telecommunications/emergency hotline planning and installation, furnishings, equipment, appliances, privacy/window coverings and signage.
To help boost the effort, David Nelson Exquisite Jewelry has donated at $2,500, half-carat diamond that will be raffled off to a lucky donor. For every $100 pledged, donors will get one entry in the drawing. The winner will receive a diamond in the cut of his or her choice.
The drawing will happen on April 19, Kutlesa said. Winner need not be present.
Donations can be sent to Guardian Angel Community Services, 1550 Plainfield Road, Joliet, IL 60435. Donors should include their name, address and phone number and indicate that they wish to be entered in the diamond raffle drawing, Kutlesa said.
She called the relation "a most historic time for GACS."