Where can you find 10,000 Easter eggs? At The Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Center on Lytton Springs Road on the day before Easter. Just like every year for the past 25 years, where the staff has been stuffing and hiding colorful candy-filled eggs for a massive Easter egg hunt as a way to give back to the children in their community. Yesterday, I was one of the more than 2,000 people to flock to the Healdsburg grounds to watch one to five-year olds search for 4,000 eggs and six to twelve-year olds scour the grassy areas in search of 6,000 eggs. Within a matter of minutes, all ten thousand colorful eggs were gone, filling the ribbon-trimmed baskets and grocery bags the kids toted to hold their Easter bounty.
After the main event, The Salvation Army staff held a raffle, giving away 3 brand-new children’s bicycles, plus 10 huge Easter baskets filled to the brim with Easter goodies. It’s all part of The Salvation Army’s mission to give back to the community that supports them throughout the year with their donations of clothing, housewares and cars. In fact, approximately 85 cents to every dollar of items donated to this sprawling thrift store compound goes back into their rehabilitation programs that support men struggling with drug and alcohol addiction.
The Lytton Story
Have you ever wondered how the largest thrift store compound around came to be? Well, I had the good fortune of sitting down with Cindy Engler, Community Relations Director and Captain Jonathan Russell of The Salvation Army to learn more about their history. The story goes that Captain William H. Litton purchased the large tract of land that once extended from southern Geyserville to northern Healdsburg, with the Russian River its eastern limits, as part of the Sotoyme Rancho land grant in 1860, making him the fourth largest property owner in Sonoma County by the mid-1860’s. In 1872, Captain Litton teamed with partners to build a plush resort hotel on the Litton Springs site, at a rate of $80,000. The resort accommodated 150 guests who were charged between $8 and $12 per person to stay there. The resort soon became known locally as Litton Springs referring to the two naturally-occurring springs on the property. After selling off 2,700 acres of the land in 1878, Captain Litton, his wife Agnes Smith, from a prominent Healdsburg family (they crossed the plains in a covered wagon in 1852), and their three sons moved to San Francisco, retaining partial ownership of the hotel and 12 adjacent cottages.
In 1887, Captain Litton died, and long after his death and later the death of his wife in 1933, controversy has surrounded the spelling of their last name and the change from “i” to “y” but a local historian believes that the spelling change was a draftsman’s error on an official document, and the name has stayed that way ever since.
‘A Man Is What He Makes of Himself’
By the late 1880’s, the resort was falling into disrepair and for a time, it became a military academy for boys from wealthy Bay Area families, referred to as Yellow Jackets because of their striking gold-braided uniforms, then later a sanitarium by several different owners. In 1904, the land was purchased by The Salvation Army and began The Lytton Orhpanage and School for Boys and Girls. Captain Wilfred C. Bourne and his wife, Alice arrived after closing The Salvation Army’s Cherry Tree Orphanage in Amity, Colorado because they felt that the cold temperatures there restricted the self-sufficient lifestyles of the orphans who resided there. So, sixteen orhpans, plus three children of their own in tow, the Bournes arrived at Lytton with just $21 in their pockets between them. Captain Bourne offered sound advice to the orphans hoping to start a new life in the shadow of Mt. St. Helena. He’d say, “Every man shares 24 hours of the day. Devote 8 hours to work, 8 hours to sleep, and 8 hours to play.” His other famous line was, “A man is what he makes of himself. Once made, no other man can take that from him.” The Bournes cared for 11,000 children who resided at Lytton between 1904 to 1916, setting strict standards of self-discipline balanced with counseling and lectures to help guide them during their formative years.
‘Called To A Life of Simplicity’
Fast forward to 1959 when Salvation Army Captain George Duplain and Brigadier Tobin brought men from The Salvation Army centers in San Francisco, Sacramento and Oakland to Lytton for a retreat. From that experience, the Lytton Springs center evolved and now sustains 73 beds for men who are ready to make life-changing decisions to get back on their feet and better prepared through counseling and ‘work therapy’ to create a more successful life for themselves. Service is at the center of the Lytton Springs program today, much as it has been part of the history of the property since it’s earlier days. The program is now consdered one of the most successful centers within The Salvation Army system, providing a clean and healty living environment, group and individual counseling and spiritual guidance to men recovering from drug and alcohol abuse. The program is free to the men who can live and work at the facility from 6 months to 1 1/2 years, and their care is funded by your donations of clothing, furniture, small appliances, electronics, housewares, cars, boats and motorcycles. As Captain Jonathan Russell so eloquently put it, “The men are called to a life of simplicity.”
For the past 90 years, Lytton has provided a new beginning for children and adults alike. And, in this time of Easter and Spring, also known as a time of rebirth and renewal, it’s good to learn a little more about Lytton Springs and how it came to be. In a way, I suppose, the colorful Easter eggs dotting the green grass at their annual Easter Egg hunt serve as a symbol of the thousands of lives that have been transformed by The Salvation Army programs that have helped so many go on to lead a better life. To learn more about The Salvation Army programs, please go to http://www.salvationarmyusa.org/usn/www_usn_2.nsf/vw-text-dynamic-arrays/8326D9D2FE6B4C05802573250030A6E1?openDocument.
Happy Easter, everyone.