Founded in 1877, The Chase Home in Portsmouth has met the needs of kids in crisis, which has meant different things to people who have lived there or accessed their community-based services. For Dan, who lived there in the early 1990’s, The Chase Home helped save his life.
“I had been in 4 foster homes,” he said. “It was not a stable situation for me.”
In between his stays at foster homes, Dan stayed with his father whom he noted was not a constant in his life as a child and often neglectful. He said they often had to source their own food, too.
“It was a very dysfunctional family,” he said. “I really did not feel safe at all.”
While protocols are different now regarding how kids and youth access services at The Chase Home–they are generally now mandated by the state–Dan said he was able to request placement there in January of 1990.
“I fell in love with the place,” he said. “I could get some relief and deal with some of my demons and be a better person.”
For him, some of the excitement at being at The Chase Home stemmed from basic needs having been met.
“I remember walking in and sitting down that first night at the dinner table and having a sweet meatball sub–it was the best meal I had had in forever,” he said. “I was so excited to get a decent hot meal.”
In addition to hot meals, Dan said he received counseling and support at The Chase Home.
“They did a lot for me as a resident,” he said. “They made sure I graduated high school on time. They did a lot for me while I was there.”
Now living in central NH with his wife, Dan said these fond memories of The Chase Home recently spurred him to reach out to staff and see if he could offer assistance.
“Every time we went to the Seacoast, I would make a point to drive by and see the building through the woods,” he said. “I would always tell my wife, ‘This was my home.’ I wanted to do more, though.”
Upon hearing from Dan, who joined the army after leaving The Chase Home, served as an EMT and is now a firefighter, Executive Director Meme Wheeler said she knew how he could help the kids.
“If we can get former residents here to talk to the kids, that is always very impactful,” she said. “They have walked in these kids’ shoes–they don’t need to prove themselves. A lot of the kids end up listening.”
In talking with residents, Dan shared his experiences while at The Chase Home and expressed his belief that they all have the power to make their own lives better.
“The people at Chase Home are there to help these kids,” he said.”I hope they are not afraid to ask for help…I asked for help and I’m glad I did.”
Expressing pride in also working for the New Hampshire State Firemen’s Association, which he said serves as a support system, too, Dan acknowledged the path to ‘now’ has been anything but easy.
“I’ve had a lot happen and had some setbacks, but I’m in a much better place now,” he said. “It’s not easy, but it’s possible…I just want people to know that places like Chase Home can help. They are making a difference.”
Wheeler added, “Dan is making a difference, too.”
Founded in 1877, The Chase Home in Portsmouth is one of the oldest nonprofits in New Hampshire, serving more than 140 at-risk youth annually statewide through prevention, early intervention, residential and community-based programs. Some youth are served in the community while others live at The Chase Home and receive comprehensive support and services.
Youth served by The Chase Home include those who have been abused, neglected, or in trouble with the law. To learn more about The Chase Home and its programs, visit www.chasehome.org.