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History and Background

The former Harriet Ballou Home

In May of 1900, Harriet Ballou, John A.G. Wightman, Henry Greene, William Preston, and Leonard Taylor petitioned the Rhode Island General Assembly for permission to form a non-profit corporation in Woonsocket that would serve “respectable aged persons, who from any cause are unable to support themselves.” On June 13, 1900, the General Assembly approved this request, and the Ballou Home was born.

For over 120 years, Ballou was a gem in Woonsocket. Although Ballou’s rich history is too deep and long to chronicle here, it is well-known that Ballou was a highly-desired and caring place for people to live when their life circumstances required them to rely on the kindness of others for their daily needs. This legacy is a testament to Ballou’s wonderful staff, families, donors, and supporters, all of whom helped the Home endure two world wars, the Great Depression, and two pandemics.

As we understand it, before Medicaid, Medicare, and other social health assistance, residents would pledge some or all of their assets to Ballou in exchange for Ballou’s promise to care for them until they passed away. Ballou would then manage and invest its funds and assets in such a way as to ensure that its residents continued to receive the high-quality care they deserved. And, over time, through this diligent and careful stewardship, Ballou was able to preserve and grow its assets to further support its charitable mission.

Unfortunately, the economic realities of operating a small (43-bed) skilled nursing facility with a heavy Medicaid patient mix – coupled with the crushing and relentless blows of the pandemic – proved too much for Ballou to continue to bear. Despite the Board’s best efforts and continuing to subsidize and fund substantial operating losses, it determined that its current path and model were economically unsustainable. Thus, after serious and thoughtful consideration, the Board made the difficult decision to close the Home in September 2021. All of Ballou’s residents promptly found new homes, and the Board sold its building in March of 2022.

But, this was not the end of the Ballou story. Rather, it’s a new beginning. Ballou’s Board of Directors is committed to continuing Mrs. Ballou’s name and legacy to continue this mission as The Harriet Ballou Charitable Foundation, which is a non-profit grantmaking foundation that distributes cash grants to eligible recipients. The Board is excited to reinvent the Ballou legacy and begin a new chapter in its history.