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Former Carmelite Home for Boys/St. Joseph Home for Boys Inc. is demolished

Sisters at the former Carmelite Home for Boys enjoy an outing with some of the boys during the 1990s.

John J. Watkins

Reflecting on the experience I was afforded while living in the Carmelite Home for Boys, I must say it helped shape me into becoming the man I am and the man I strive to become.

I entered the home at the age of 9 not knowing what to expect. Taken away from my biological mother because of child abuse, along with being abused physically as well as sexually in 2 other foster homes, I was terrified yet also put at ease at the same time.

I saw boys of all ages, all colors, all sizes in a place with similar issues. However seeing a nun outside of the television screen didn't ease my fears right away. Yet my stay from the age of 9 to 16 afforded me the opportunity to have a home and to form bonds of brotherhood with many that even today are relevant.

I experienced certain things that others in the system would never experience, from summer camps to sporting events to theatre, etc.

I recall that because I did not have family of my own, that I was able to spend holidays with medical doctors and their families instead of being stuck in the home alone. They made sure that I could have somewhat of a normal experience with a family.

Some of my dreams and life goals were birthed there. A dream such as being a husband and father with a big family. I also dreamed of owning my own business and doing music while living there. And today I have my big family, I have my business, I'm doing music as a recording producer/engineer and artist (professionally known as N-TraKit), owning my own production & recording company that caters to the gospel community and those that have a positive message.

I'm also working on a couple of books and I am part of the audio team at my church. I am also afforded the opportunity to work with and mentor children of various ages as well as being involved in motivational speaking, which allows me to go different places and tell of my experiences to other children as well as adults - with the home being a key factor of how things turned out for me - because of my pit stop to the Carmelite.

I believe there was a hope placed in me while living there. A hope that I may not have seen had the home not existed.


Ed has been with The Times since January 2014. He previously covered government affairs for Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers in Florida. Prior to Scripps, he was with the Chicago Regional Bureau of Copley News Service.