Response: November 2015 Issue

Caring for Children for 95 Years

Wesley Education Center in Cincinnati, Ohio, has been providing quality child care to those in need for 95 years and counting.

Caring for Children for 95 Years
The “balloon man” is a hit at Wesley Education Center’s homecoming celebration in August 2015.

In January 1920, eight months before women were given the right to vote and 14 months after the end of World War I, the Woman's Home Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church established the Friendship Home Nursery Kindergarten in Cincinnati Ohio, housed in the Friendship Home, a boarding home for young African American women. At this time many young black women, several without support from family or friends, migrated from the agricultural South to northern industrial cities. Finding suitable care for preschool children in Cincinnati, Ohio, during working hours was a challenge. The Woman's Home Missionary Society established its kindergarten to help meet this desperate need. The women soon made it a national mission concern, drawing support from churchwomen across the country.

The agency's first director was Louise Penn, a recent graduate of a kindergarten training program at the University of Cincinnati. Lucile Holliday, a deaconess in the Methodist Church, came to teach in 1924, eventually assuming the role of director and remained with the child care center until she retired in 1965.

From its beginning, what is today known as Wesley Education Center, a United Methodist Women-supported national mission institution, has provided quality early childhood education, optimal growth and nutrition and support services for families in Cincinnati. In the 1920s, a visiting doctor and nurse made weekly visits to weigh and immunize babies. As the center grew a day care was added, hours were expanded and children from 6 months to 14 years were accepted. The center was the first in Cincinnati to provide care for children as young as 6 months. It is now located on Hale Avenue on a quarter-acre grassy lot with modern playground, a unique place in an urban setting.

95 years of care

Ninety-five years is a long time for any business to remain in operation, especially a small nonprofit. The driving force behind Wesley Education Center's longevity is the support of the United Methodist Women. As a national mission institution, Wesley has benefitted from the vital assistance of many United Methodist Women units around the United States, and more specifically those who live in the West Ohio Conference and the Greater Cincinnati area. The thousands of volunteers, board members, staff and other "Friends of Wesley" who have also supported Wesley Education Center through the years can take pride in knowing that they too played a significant role in its success and longevity.

The sad fact is that the need for quality early childhood education has not changed in 95 years. Preschool education for children ages 3 and 4 is critical for kindergarten readiness. A child who enters kindergarten unprepared has difficulty catching up so and falls behind in later grades as well. At a minimum, the ability to complete high school is necessary for employment in the 21st century. But such necessary early education is expensive in the United States, and children from low-income families begin their education careers already at a disadvantage in kindergarten.

Today, 98 percent of Wesley Education Center's services are delivered to families who fall below the poverty level. As a safe, nurturing environment, with added social support services for over 40 infants and preschoolers, Wesley Education Center provides a valuable service to the community. Client fees, government vouchers and subsidies and the generous support of the national United Methodist Women covers 83 percent of our budget. The rest, we fundraise.

To celebrate our 95th, Wesley's goal is to raise $95,000 in 2015. Individuals, families, United Methodist Women units, Girl Scout Troops, businesses and organizations have joined in the fundraising. If you'd like to learn more, visit

Rose Palmieri is volunteer at Wesley Education Center and advisor to its board. She served as committee chair for the center’s 11th annual Circle of Care dinner and auction.

Posted or updated: 11/2/2015 11:00:00 PM

November 2015 cover of response

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