St. Vincent Early Learning Center Celebrates 100th Anniversary
As you read these words, the St. Vincent Early Learning Center in Evansville is almost a week into its second century of service. The facility celebrated its 100th anniversary with open houses on Nov. 13, 14 and 15.
St. Vincent’s Day Nursery opened on Nov. 18, 1918, at Assumption Parish on North 7th St. in Evansville. With a capacity of 30, the nursery began service with 17 children and two staff members. Families were charged 10-15 cents per day, based on their ability to pay. No one was turned away.
How and why it started
Following is a brief synopsis of the center’s beginnings, taken from its website. “During World War I, women began assuming roles in industry as men were called to military service, and they needed a safe and affordable way to have their children cared for while they worked. The Ladies of Charity of Evansville responded to the need by establishing St. Vincent’s Day Nursery.
“Within a few months of St. Vincent’s start, the Ladies of Charity were unable to accommodate the huge demand for service so they appealed to the Daughters of Charity at St. Mary’s Hospital to manage the agency. While the Daughters of Charity are no longer involved in the day-to-day operation of St. Vincent, their values permeate our mission, and their sponsorship continues to support our work.”
Also from the website: “Today high-quality early education and care is needed more than ever with the increase in single-parent households and the number of women who work outside the home. And today as in the past, St. Vincent remains faithful to addressing that need for our community’s families.”
In 2017, the Early Learning Center served 219 youngsters and provided them with more than 90,000 meals in addition to educational and recreation activities. It is accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young People, and it holds a Paths to Quality Level 4 Rating from the state – the highest possible rating.
Who are the Ladies of Charity?
St. Vincent de Paul founded Ladies of Charity to serve the poor in 17th century France. Together with St. Louise de Mariliac, they went quietly about their tasks, seeking no recognition, satisfied with the knowledge that they were serving Christ in the person of the poor.
100 years in Evansville
Over the years, what is now the St. Vincent Early Learning Center has moved around. It once occupied the Heilman Home on 1st Ave., and has been at its current location on Delaware St. cine 1976. In 1997, the center added the building that had housed the St. Mary School of Nursing. At acquisition, it was known as the Bristol Myers Building.
The press conference
Early Learning Center Executive Director Kim Mulfinger presented a condensed history of its first 100 years during a Nov. 12 press conference held in the area that connects the building opened in 1976 with the building acquired in 1997.
The Daughters of Charity religious order because involved in the center, administratively and fiscally, in 1963, Mulfinger told a large crowd during the press conference. Several Daughters of Charity attended the event. Mulfinger noted that the Daughters are no longer involved in its day-to-day operation, but they continue to support and sponsor the center.
Evansville Mayor Lloyd Winnecke and Indiana State Rep. Ryan Hatfield (D-Evansville) attended the event and read proclimations from the city and the state house, respectively.
Mayor Winnecke proclaimed Nov. 12 as St. Vincent Early Learning Center Day in the city. “I enjoy coming here and reading to the kids,” he said, noting that his daughter Danielle attended the center. She holds a Master’s Degree in Social work and now lives in Tucson, Ariz.
Rep. Hatifeld read a proclamation from the state house congratulating and honoring the center on its 100th anniversary. “When I visited and read to the children, I was very impressed,” he said.
“The children who attend are so diverse. The classrooms here meet their diversity, and the teachers and staff do as well.”
During the press conference, Mulfinger provided an update on the center’s new Natural Outdoor Learning Classroom, which it is developing in partnership with Nature Explorer, a partner of the National Arbor Day Foundation. She said that a fundraising campaign to raise $150,000 for the outdoor classroom has already raised $127,000 – including a $35,000 grant from the Women’s Fund of Vanderburgh County, which it received earlier this month.
For more information on the St. Vincent Early Learning Center, visit www.stvincentearlylearningcenter.org