In September 1902, a group of women from the Methodist Churches of the Grand Rapids District organized a club to do settlement work. They selected Irene Cummings, a Deaconess, to supervise the project. The place of operation was a store building on Ellsworth Avenue. The program included classes for kindergarten and early elementary children (all girls). By the second year, two evenings a week were devoted to a program for boys. As the project grew, Irene Cummings was succeeded by Bertha Clark with Nellie Shorter as an assistant. Classes were offered in Bible study, citizenship, cooking, sewing and handy-crafts. Already the program was beginning to meet the needs of ethnically-diverse people, among them several Syrian families.
After a decade of service, it was evident that here was a growing and deserving program that merited expansion. Property was purchased at 314 Wealthy Street. Individuals were chosen from several Methodist Churches to serve on a governing board. The name of the organization was changed to the Methodist Community House. As the project grew, financial support was obtained from the Woman’s House Missionary Society.
In the decades of the 1920s and 30s, more activities were included in Community House’s offerings, including Sunday school, religious services, and recreational and social events. A Boy Scout troop was also added.
In 1936, the first day nursery (child care center) in Grand Rapids was opened at the Methodist Community House. Lela Powers was the first Director. This program was soon expanded to offer services for 20 pre-school children.
During World War II, the staff was enlarged to include two full-time workers and a housekeeper...
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Building a Broader Base
Decade of Innovation
Funding and Expansion