Wellspring’s roots began in 1968 when five downtown congregations (Emmanuel Lutheran, First Presbyterian, St. John’s United Church of Christ, Trinity English Lutheran and Wayne Street Methodist) plus the YWCA joined together to bring it to life. At its inception, the main purpose was providing summer programs for youth who lived in Fort Wayne’s West Central neighborhood. Pastors Bill Moody of First Presbyterian and Arnold Pierson of Trinity English Lutheran played key roles in the formation of the program.
Pastor Moody was hired as the first executive director and served in that position until 1989. Andrea Thomas became the second executive director, serving in her position until she retired at the end of 2004. Francis M. Zirille served as executive director from 2005-2017.
Initially, the agency was called West Central Neighborhood Summer Program but was later changed to West Central Neighborhood Committee. In 1989, members of the board voted to change the name to West Central Neighborhood Ministry. In June 2004, the name was changed to Wellspring. One reason for the modification was that the organization was serving a much broader population base than just the West Central area. Over 80% of those who take part in Wellspring programs live within a 2.5 mile radius of the downtown area.
From the early years, the organization quickly expanded to offer a variety of programs that focus on the educational, social, physical and recreational needs of adults and youth. In 2016, Wellspring directly impacted the lives of over 7,000 individuals through its direct service programs. A high percentage of those were involved with Wellspring on an ongoing basis.
The West Central Neighborhood Committee and its work, being founded in such positive motivations, can look to the future with assurance and confidence that the work does and will continue to bear fruit. -Bill Moody, 1971