What follows is a brief history of the Wells Foundation and its mission. See also the following links within our website:

 

Legacy of Wells Donors
Slide Show of Historic Photos
2016 Grant Recipients
2015 Grant Recipients

 

It All Began with a Sewing Machine

Photo-Thomas-B.-WellsThe Wells Foundation traces its roots back to the 1880s, when Annie Wells, the wife of St. Mark’s Rector Thomas Bucklin Wells, allowed a German immigrant neighbor to use her sewing machine and gave her lessons in “modern” sewing. Soon, more nearby immigrant women asked for lessons. Annie was soon overwhelmed, and asked for help from other women in the parish.

The women petitioned the St. Mark’s Vestry to purchase three sewing machines so they could continue this work. There was a substantial debate about whether to fund this “women's work.” Some members of the Vestry believed that the women should raise all of the money themselves – this proposal was “ladies’ work.”

 

 

 

 

Give Someone a Fish vs. Teach Someone to Fish

1935-newspaper-article-boys-building-model-cityThe Vestry agreed to purchase ONE sewing machine, leaving the women to raise funds for the other TWO. The women raised enough money to buy EIGHT more machines. The demand continued to grow for sewing education – women with skills in sewing could often find work when their husbands could not. Before long, classes were offered in sewing, serving, childcare and typing. To assist with childcare, a Kindergarten and Nursery School were established. Classes and clubs were started for school-age children. English and civics classes were taught in the evening.

From a Sewing Machine to a Full-Service Facility

Women-nurses-children-visitors-in-front-of-Wells-settlement-house-1926The Wells Memorial Inc. Settlement House was established in 1908 to house these services. At Wells Memorial volunteers and social workers provided medical, social and educational services to the surrounding community. Over the years the settlement house provided daycare to working mothers. Neighborhood people could send their children to kindergarten or a day nursery, find books, search for work and obtain treatment for illness there. Immigrants and Minneapolis residents of varying religious affiliations could also use the house for their own meetings. For instance, in 1920 Jewish athletes organized a sporting club there. Finnish and other immigrants also connected with each other at the facility.

 

 

 

From a Facility to an Endowment

In the mid-1920s Wells became a non-profit tax exempt entity. When the settlement house and other properties were sold, Wells put the funds into an endowment for the future needs of the community, and this endowment has been augmented with generous gifts over the years. Wells Memorial House was sold in 1948 and the foundation took a new direction as described in St. Mark's: A Parish Church and a Cathedral:

Two-women-retiring

 

In September of that year, Richard J. Parvis of Kansas City was placed in charge of directing a radically new method of social service work, which calls for cooperative use of homes, schools, churches and community facilities of various kinds. Wells no longer aims to supply directly all the needs of the people it serves but rather to help them to help themselves. It now styles itself "a neighborhood partner in social and recreational activities.” It is believed that this conforms with the original intent of Wells Memorial's founders. 

 

After the settlement house was “disestablished” Wells created one of the nation’s first street-based outreach programs to prevent juvenile gang activity. Wells was always interested in diagnosing and treating the causes of the poverty and misery in the community.

Modern Times

Loring-Nicollet-Bethlehem-students-recyclingOver the years the settlement house provided daycare to working mothers and later after the settlement house was “disestablished” Wells created one of the nation’s first street-based outreach programs to prevent juvenile gang activity. Wells was always interested in diagnosing and treating the causes of the poverty and misery in the community. In the 1990's and 2000's Wells Foundation has funded various groups in the community, such as:

District 202 drop-in center for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender youth

Loring-Nicollet-Bethlehem Community Centers

Neighborhood Involvement Program

Project for Pride in Living


Simpson Housing Services

Minnesota AIDS Project

St. Stephen's of Minneapolis

Episcopal Community Services

St. Mark’s Cathedral outreach programs including Sunday & Monday Night Supper, Covenant and Students with Children

Minnesota Head Trauma Association

 

In the last few years Wells has directed its focus toward assisting other organizations working to end homelessness.  As noted at the top of the page see links to our 2015 and 2016 funding recipients.