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In 1926, the Civic League inherited a large house through the Will of the Woodworth sisters, who had been active Civic League members. The property was located in the 400 block of West Center Street. Although the Will mentioned the possibility of the House becoming a "rest stop" for women shopping in the city, members of the Civic League Board felt there was a greater need to provide free custodial care for children of working mothers. After considerable study and planning, a Day Nursery was opened in 1930. It occupied only one room on the main floor of the Woodworth House. 


The permit issued by the State Board of Control, stated that not more than 12 children, ages 2 to 5 years of age, where to be present at any given time. Hours were 8:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. six days a week. The custodial care included the giving of orange juice and cod liver oil morning, morning and afternoon snacks, noon lunch followed by a nap, and supervised free play. 


In its earliest years, volunteers and one employee, a "matron", staffed the Nursery. She was responsible for the operation of the entire building, then referred to as the Woodworth Clubhouse. The upstairs rooms were rented to single women, primarily Methodist Hospital nurses. This rent money combined with interest from bonds that were part of the Woodworth inheritance financed utilities, building renovations and maintenance. Operational costs of the nursery were raised by community subscriptions and private donations. Each Civic League Board member was given a list of names from which she collected monthly contributions. The Kiwanis Club provided milk for the nursery through a series of fund-raising events. They also provided funds for a fence to enclose the play yard. 


It soon became evident that more help was required. A housekeeper was added to the Clubhouse in addition to the Nursery matron in order to be in compliance with the State Labor and Day Nursery laws. 


In 1933, the Nursery Committee of the Women's Civic League established an account for the Day Nursery funds separate from the Women's Civic League. At that time, the only financial support from the League for the nursery project was the provision of space, without charge, in the Woodward Clubhouse. In 1940, the program still had a staff of only two and the daily fee ranged from five cents to forty-five cents, depending upon the mother's ability to pay. The Family Service Office screened all applicants, a practice that continued until 1973. 


A grant allocation of $I,500 in 1941 from the Community Chest, marked the end to the eleven years of monthly pledge collection by the Civic League Board members for the financial support of the Nursery. 


In 1945, the Day Nursery expanded by adding the use of a second room and enlarging the bathroom. This allowed the program to be licensed for 20 children, ages 3 to 5. By 1947, with a staff expanded to four, the Community Chest grant had climbed to $3,445. The sliding fee income totaled $1,796. The daily fee ranged from ten cents to a dollar. The average daily cost of operation was calculated at 95.25 cents per child. 


About 1958, the concept of providing only custodial care for children in day care was deemed inappropriate and the requirements for State Licensing Standards were raised. The Civic League responded by starting the practice of hiring directors and head teachers who were professionally qualified in education or related fields. A licensed, modern, well-staffed day care center evolved which offered an enriched child-care a program. Many community resource individuals helped considerably in fulfilling this endeavor. 



By 1960, the staff consisted of the Director, two Head Teachers, two Assistants, a Cook and a Janitor. The teacher child ratio was 1 to 10. The financial situation was somewhat eased by the Nursery being accepted into the Agricultural Food Surplus Program. Also in 1960, the Civic League was successful in obtaining a $3,000 grant from the Rochester Area Foundation to establish a Homemakers Service. Records refer to the "carefully selected" women who were employed to help families when an emergency took a mother away from the home. The service was provided only on a temporary basis during daytime hours when "the father of the family was at work". Employees were retained on the job until the United Way fund support made it possible to employ the homemakers on a salaried basis. 


1962 and 1963 was a period of self-evaluation for the Civic League. The Board voted to undertake an analytical study of the organization, its policies, its functions and the contributions of its various services to the community. An outgrowth of this action was a two-year joint planning effort with other local service agencies resulting in the closing of the Family Service Office and the establishment of the Family Consultation Center. This was later known as Family Counseling and Home Services, Inc. The director of the new agency was assigned the responsibility of working with families experiencing problems as a result of "child behavior or material misunderstanding". A social worker on the Family Consultation Center staff assumed the responsibility for interviewing the families who wished to enroll their children at the Nursery, a job previously handled through the Family Service Office. 


This new agency also assumed responsibility for the Civic League Homemaker Service project. Of the many programs introduced and developed by the Civic League Board of Directors since 1887, only the Day Nursery retained the sponsorship of Civic League. 


In the meantime, the Civic League Day Nursery was becoming well known in the community and the state as a model program for child day care. The analytical study reported, "The service has had enthusiastic acceptance by its users, and was considered to be one of the best day care centers in the state in 1961." The Nursery participated in the Minnesota Preschool Education Association workshop, held in Rochester in 1961. An open house was held for over 80 teachers that attended. In the summer of 1963, and again in 1964, the Minnesota Department of Public Welfare sponsored a weeklong state workshop in Rochester. The Civic League Day Nursery staff was asked to be presenters. Participants were also scheduled to visit and observe the Civic League Day Nursery's home-like day care facility and exemplary program. 


As a growing need for day care was recognized, another eventual result of the analytical study was the expansion of the Day Nursery to accommodate 38 children. In 1966, the Civic League ceased renting the upstairs rooms in the Woodworth House making that area available for children. The professionally trained staff continued to offer an enriched program that endeavored to meet children's needs in all areas of development. Parenting support was offered through periodic meetings dealing with behavior problems and other concerns. The staff included a director, two head teachers, four assistant teachers, four part-time helpers, a janitor, a cleaning woman, a cook and an assistant cook, who also served as housekeeper. The Civic League Day Nursery continued to be rated among the top day care centers of the state. 



An After-School Childcare project was piloted in 1966 and 1967. Encouragement and financial support came from the United Fund, the Rochester branch of the American Association of University Women and the West Side Kiwanis Club. When participation fell below expectations, the project was discontinued. It was not until 1974 that the Civic League again ventured into after-school care. At that time a $1,000 state grant was secured to provide start-up funds for a year-round program for kindergarten age children. It was housed in the First Presbyterian Church, which expanded care from 9 children to 17 in September, 1974. 

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