There’s no place like home for the holidays and for 32 children, Hutton Settlement is the place they call home. Earlier this year, I got to know four of those children.
My friend, Tom McArthur, asked if I’d interview the kids with him for a special edition of the Northwest Profiles television program.
First, a bit of background.
Hutton Settlement was founded by Levi Hutton, a wealthy businessman who made his fortune in the North Idaho mines during the early 1900s. Hutton was an orphan and so was his wife, May Arkwright Hutton. After her death, he decided to use some of his fortune to create a true home for kids like him instead of the institutions that were common at the time.
This year, the settlement celebrated its centennial with a slew of events.
In July, a bronze sculpture by artist Vincent DeFelice was unveiled, and Babe Ruth’s granddaughter, Linda Ruth Tosetti, threw out the first pitch at the memorial baseball game.
Babe Ruth, himself an orphan, had heard about the settlement and visited Hutton in 1924 during an off-season with the New York Yankees.
In late October through early November, a play written by Tim Rarick premiered at the Spokane Civic Theatre. “A Place to Call Home” told the story of the settlement’s founding.
And on Oct. 31, Northwest Profiles devoted a half-hour program to the history of Hutton. The program, which aired on KSPS-TV and kicked off the show’s 33rd season, featured the four children I interviewed with McArthur.
Tom McArthur and Cindy Hval at KSPS-TV studios with Hutton Settlement residents.
Gavin McArthur, 16, Roxy Fredericksen, 14, and Trinity Kinville, 11, shared their stories of how they came to live at Hutton, and what the settlement means to them.
Gavin said he and his brother were being raised by their dad. One morning when he was about 4 years old, he heard a knock at the door.
“My dad opened it up and a bunch of police officers stormed in. My brother and I were scared. We ran and hid under a bunk bed. It turns out that he (Dad) was arrested for using drugs at the time. I found out later that he suffered from schizophrenia and mental illness.”
After going through several foster homes, the brothers ended up at Hutton.
“I could tell right away these people are here for me — they’re trying to help me, nurture me and take care of me,” he said.
Roxy said her mother and father argued frequently.
“It was really bad. And then one day my mom, she’s like, ‘Oh you’re not gonna be living with me anymore,’ ” Roxy said.
When she was 7, she moved to Hutton and her two younger sisters soon followed.
Trinity had a similar story.
“When I was just little, our father abused me and my mother,” she said.
The abuse continued when her younger siblings arrived.
“When I was 8, my mother died from an overdose. I lived with my grandma and grandpa for a year,” she said. “One day our uncle came and said, ‘I just found this great place online, and I have friends who used to work there. It’s called Hutton Settlement.’ That summer we started visiting, and we ended up moving to Cottage Two, and I’ve lived there since.”
Each of the children shared their memories of going up the long tree-lined drive at the settlement, and of the love and warmth they found with Hutton’s shelter.
When asked what they’d like to say to Levi Hutton, Roxy said, “Thank you for making this place where I can be myself and have a loving caring family. I didn’t have that before.”
Trinity reflected on what she’s learned since coming to the settlement.
“God loves everyone,” she said. “Even when times are tough it can get better. It will get better. And even if you don’t feel like it, someone’s always there by your side.”
In this season of the year when hearts yearn for home and family, the kids at Hutton Settlement are profoundly grateful for the acceptance and love they’ve found.
“Hutton Settlement to me is a place to call home — a place to call family,” Gavin said.