Before the city’s downtown streets filled with shoppers, a group of Savannahians turned out early Saturday morning to commemorate the Greenbriar Children’s Center’s 70th anniversary during a 5K walk.

“Greenbriar has served the community for 70 years, and they do a fantastic job,” said Scott Center, former board member and honorary co-chair of the organization’s 70th anniversary celebration. “It’s time to let the community know how much they have helped to make it a better place. They have impacted so many children in Savannah and turned a lot of lives around.”

Greenbriar operates a shelter for abused, neglected or runaway youths. It also has two early learning centers, Wendy’s Preschool and the W.W. Law Learning Center, for children six months to five years old. In addition, it offers family and individual counseling and an independent living program, including apartments for young people age 18-21 who have aged out of foster care and need job-training and community support.

The center was founded in the early 1940s when philanthropist Adaline Graham died and left property and funds in her will to start an orphanage for African-American children. In 1943, five women from Gamma Sigma Omega chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority met with the Rev. Ralph Gilbert, pastor of First African Baptist Church, who organized 20 churches to support them.

“The significance of this event today is to commemorate our 70th anniversary — 70 years of providing service in this community,” said Gena Taylor, executive director. “We’re starting here at First African Baptist Church because this was the place where the very first meeting was held with the members of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority and Rev. Ralph Gilbert.”

Greenbriar Children’s Center opened on July 15, 1949, with a cottage-style building for 20 African-American orphans. In 1954, the 15-acre tract on which Greenbriar now stands on Hopkins Street was purchased for $17,000. The center began accepting children of all races in 1964.

Just after 7 a.m. Saturday, participants, sporting tan and green commemorative shirts, made the 3.1-miletrek from First African Baptist Church through the historic district past other founding churches including Connors Temple Baptist, Tremont Temple Baptist, St. Matthew’s Episcopal and Pilgrim Baptist , before ending at Greenbriar’s campus.

Among Saturday’s participants was Mayor Pro Tem Carol Bell, a 50-year member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority.

“I’m thrilled to be a part of the organization that had the foresight to do more than just talk about community services but make a tremendous commitment to performance,” Bell said.

The 70th anniversary celebration will continue later this year, including participation at the Savannah State homecoming parade, a gala dinner/dance in November and and a concert by children’s choirs in December.

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PRIVACY POLICY: Greenbriar Children's Center, Inc. shall not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion (creed), gender, age, national origin (ancestry), disability, marital status, sexual orientation, or military status, in any of its activities or operations. These activities include, but are not limited to, hiring and firing of staff, selection of volunteers, selection of vendors, and provision of services.

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