Peoria's Guardian Angel Home

Finds a Helping Hand
by Arthur Schurr
Corporate involvement augments program that rescues troubled kids.

George Bernard Shaw said, "In heaven, an angel is nobody in particular." But things are different here on Earth. And in Peoria, some angels are doing very special work with some of the most challenged youths in Illinois.

"You can't save everyone; you've got to recognize that at the outset," explains Guardian Angel Home Program Coordinator Jim Kleine. "We deliver a number of services, but our primary goal is to provide a safe haven for kids who have come from very bad situations. For us, ‘success' means having a child return safely to his community, rather than going to another institution or entering the criminal justice system."

A long-term residential treatment facility for boys aged six to 18, the Guardian Angel Home in Peoria, Illinois, is run by the Catholic Charities Diocese of Peoria. (The on-grounds school functions scholastically as part of the Peoria School District.) The home primarily takes boys referred by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services-young men who often have been abused or neglected, and who usually present significant mental health, emotional and behavioral issues.

To meet their social and emotional needs, the Guardian Angel Home provides a structured environment that focuses on therapeutic relationships. The home delivers a host of services, such as food and shelter; individual, family, and group counseling; independent-living preparation; and medical and dental services. According to Kleine, though, one element provides a particularly positive influence on the boys.

"The teachers are with them all the time. And they do a fantastic job. Before they got here, most of these kids experienced school as a crowded, anonymous battleground. Here they have a teacher, a teacher's aide, and at most eight children in a class. That close attention is very beneficial.

"Behavior isn't the only issue. Most of the boys are way behind academically too. That's understandable; when survival itself is an issue, studies take a backseat. So, not only do our teachers handle kids who have been preconditioned against school, but they also have to teach material from all of the grades to kids of every age in mixed classrooms. That's very difficult."

Guardian Angel lead teacher Karen Lune cites the program's comprehensive approach as its most beneficial feature. Equipped with a battery of resources and substantial support, the home does provide a safe learning environment. According to Lune, though, another unique element really helps.

"We have an adopt-a-school partner-the Peoria office of AECOM. Their employees are active in our students' lives. We pair each child with an employee, first as pen pals. They write back and forth every two weeks and, over time, develop a pretty close relationship. The pen pals also visit us every other week. Though primarily educational, the pen pal program also gives the kids a sense of belonging, a connection to someone who cares about them. Many of these kids have never had that."

The local office of AECOM joined Peoria's district-wide adopt-a-school program in 1995. A global architecture and engineering firm with more than 43,000 employees, AECOM fully supports the Peoria office's involvement in the program. And according to AECOM's Guardian Angel point person, Assistant Project Engineer Kerri Borlin, the employees love working with the kids. "We were lucky to be assigned to the Guardian Angel Home. The school only has about 16 kids, so we can really get to know them."

Borlin continues, "The company purchases tickets to send the boys to a play at the Peoria Civic Center each fall, and to the symphony in the spring. Our read-aloud volunteers visit the classroom regularly, and our pen pal volunteers bring treats and presents for Christmas and Valentine's Day parties. We also host the students at our office. Every Halloween we bring them in for a tour. Everyone-kids and employees alike-dresses up and the kids trick-or-treat at each cubicle. We treat them to a potluck lunch with their pen pals, and then send them back to school with huge bags of candy. But the big event is the year-end celebration at a Chiefs' game."

"The Peoria Chiefs are a minor league baseball team in the Chicago Cubs franchise," explains Guardian Angel pen pal Jim Ash, a senior project landscape architect with AECOM. "Before the game, we take the kids to Bradley Park for a picnic. We always go on free-peanuts-and-hot-dog day so the kids can have as much as they want. They really love that. But the most important thing, by far, is the time we get to spend together."

"These events all involve spending time-something these kids really need," adds Ash. "Society has basically written them off. But if you give them a little time and attention, you'll find they're just normal kids. That's the most important lesson I've gotten from this program: never give up on a child.

"I visited my new pen pal-a kid dealing with a lot of issues-at the last Valentine's Day party. During the party, the kids were learning origami. Although I'm pretty deft with pencil and paper, origami is beyond me. But my kid did it like an artist. Then he taught me how to do it. I got as much out of that visit as he did."

An eight-year veteran of the program, Ash applauds Borlin's coordination efforts and the work of the Guardian Angel team. For both sides, though, the greatest benefit of the program is the intense personal involvement.

"This isn't a blind donation or a hollow gesture," explains Lune. "The AECOM folks are really involved. And they really care about the kids. Whenever we need something, Kerri and AECOM are always willing to help. It's a great partnership."

"These are normal kids," Kleine adds. "They just weren't dealt the same cards most of us got. Even though we're not always successful, we can reach a lot of these kids. And we'll always keep them safe."

Shaw said, "In heaven, an angel is nobody in particular." On Earth, however, things are different. And in Peoria, "Guardian Angel" has a very special meaning. iBi

Arthur Schurr is a freelance writer living in Brooklyn, NY.

Subscribe to Peoria Magazines


I am a former resident of guardian angel and i have to say i am 42 now i was 16 when i came there and that place got my head screwed on straight. I don't know if anyone that worked there that long ago is still there but i still remember my experience there

hi deb i was there at the same time as you my name then was mike king


I also am a former resident of Guardian Angel. I am now 34, was 14 when I went there. Guardian Angel changed me for life, an experience that I will never forget. Everyone was so supportive and caring. I remember many of the staff as well. I now am a mother of three. I am also a Nurse living a happy healthy lifestyle. Thank you Guardian Angel.....and I'm glad to see that you are still helping kids!!!!

i also lived here from 86-88. i had learned quite alot of jim kline which is stil there to this date man this guy really care if he has been there that long .i dont have nothing bad to say about this place , i only remember alot of good times there. if anyone care to e-mail me back feel free to would love to hear from the people who lived there and worked there at the time i was there . god bless ....

hello i used to live there do you rember me?do you remember steophany brock?love to hear from you,gardian angle was a memorable time of my;ease contact me at

Dude i think i remeber you but not sure when was you there and for how long.

I didnt live there - I lived across the field.  I remember Sat morning football games and weekday baseball played at the grounds there with many of the kids who lived there.   Between the neighbor kids and those at the home - we had some pretty big turnouts and we all became friends.   Even though I did not live there I must say I learned a lot through those friendships.

can someone please tell me if i can get my uncontrollable son in this program without dcfs recommending me? he is 13 and dont want to listen to anyone argues and fights daily. dad wont take him and i cant do it anymore.

Hi I have a child like that who is 11. He is being considered for gardian angels . Right now he is in a temporary shelter til he can get in some where.  The only way we could get him help is thru DCFS.  We went to court and requested a no fault dependency. We tried everything we could to get him help but no one will take a child without a DCFS referral so here we are. We now have a case with them but it's not abuse or neglect. It is for his behavior. That's y it's called a no fault dependency.  It's where DCFS gets involved with your family to help with services that u could not get otherwise but it's not the parents fault. My son has severe behaviors and that's how I was able to get him in. He almost killed his baby sister by  beating her in the head with a metal baseball bat. He  was very violent with me. Tried to bash me in the head with a barstool. he tried to set our house on fire 6 times. Set his little brother on fire. Killed a pregnant dog. Ran away. Was smoking. Caused hundreds of dollars of damage to our house. So we didn't have a choice but to get involved with dcfs. But before you go for a no fault have u ever considered hospitalizations?  They have hospitals for kids who have issues. It is short term.  Like a week or two and u don't have to have dcfs involved for that. 

I was there form 91 to 93. I would love to hear from everyone, staff, and residents. You guys were my family, when I needed one! Thank You Very Much!!!


Would love to have contact with anyone that lived or worked at Guardian Angle from the time I was there in 1992-1995. Would be nice to have a reunion and see how everyone is doing.

I used to live there when it was a co-ed place back in the early 90's I have pics of the girls and boys and staff there. I'm trying to remember the last name of the rev. back them his first name was bob. I do have a Fb page jody seward ramsey,il

I found a pic of bob waldschmidt that used to be the pastor there in the 90's, and I did find someone that I was close to there it took me 16 yrs to reconnect but found him, he was my soulmate then and he still is to this day!!

I lived there back in the early 90s... my counseler theresa was amazing! I learned so much... I would love 2 get in touch with some of the people that were there. my teacher mrs cox was the best teacher i ever had! so many memories... good & bad lol... (with a bunch of kids that want everything their way they cant all b good lol) if any1 was there when i was id love 2 hear from you... :)


My name is Jenna. I'm currently a college student, and have been doing a lot of research regarding volunteering to help children. This seems like an excellent opportunity,and I would Love to know more regarding volunteer opportunities. Thank you for your time.


Well, I found one important person in my life that lived there, but I'm looking for our other friend, he lived there on the boys hall, back in the 90's, his name is Ronnie brooks, if anyone has any info plz touch base with me!! Ty!!

I just wanted to thank you all for givng me the opportunity to attend this home and be living in me when I felt nobody else would I just wanted to also th and some berry remembered staff for the positive impressions you left on me these staffs names will always be remembered and never forgotten because you touched my heart with your love for me the names are jessica Calvert Dwayne khan Brian Ural esteem Cory and Tina all amazing staff when I was there ty and you did me wonders I got adopted Brian ps thanks for the doughnuts on the 4 hour journey 

I am looking for records on my father, Edwin Hausammann and his siblings, Genevieve, James, Marshall, Elizabeth and Joseph Hausammann who were placed in Guardian Angel Orphanage in Peoria IL in late December 1926 or January 1927. Their father Alfred Hausammann had died in December 1926 and their mother, Emma Dubach (or DuBach) Hausammann placed the children there. Please let me know if this is the same institution. If it is not, can you help with how to go about finding the records?

Thank you,

Gaile Hausaman Nellett

hello i was a resident on lawarence hall it was coed them. GILL hall was all boys, learned many life lessons there. remember alot of the kids and staff that helped me on the way, love to hear from anyone that was there in the 80s.

When I lived at GAO we had the Big Girls and Big Boys. Sadly they stopped taking in the younger kids. Father Schlarman (sp?) was the priest and many awesome nuns took care of us `challenged` kids. I'm grateful for sister armata and sister Mary gene (I know sister Mary gene has passed). I'm grateful for the community volunteers who tried to enrich our lives. They provided stability, which many of us needed. I loved all the animals we had to take care of. Better than foster care for sure. We would goto to the Motherhouse to swim. Good memories in a childhood filled with nightmares.

Add new comment