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Our Story


In 1916, a group of Rockford women recognized a need for day care for young children.  These women were: Mrs. J. W. McLachlan, Mrs. Esta A. Barrett, Mrs. A. J. Holtz, Mrs. Charles Knapp, Mrs. Oscar Nelson, Mrs. Clara Hortan, Mrs. Flora Carpenter, Mrs. Lulu M. Ziock, and Mrs. Hope Walker Barnes.  At this time, the W.C.T.U. loaned the basement of its building at 102 West State Street for this worthy project.  The first baby was Anthony Nivinoki.  As the nursery grew, it moved to the second floor at 210 West State Street and later to the third floor of the Mead Building at Elm and Main Streets.  Because these quarters were soon outgrown, in 1921 the organizers with Mrs. McLachlan as president raised $12,000 to buy the Nordstrom Home at 208 South Rockton Avenue.

Rockford Day Nursery received its charter from Secretary of State Louis L. Emmerson on November 26, 1921.  The object of the organization was “to maintain a day nursery to assist women in the care of their children, and to use its influence in procuring employment for women.”  Attendance grew and filled the house to the license limit of fifty children.  The Day Nursery was one of the original fourteen social agencies in the Rockford Community Fund, Inc., now the Rockford United Way.

In 1937, the Nursery affiliated with the Works Projects Administration.  During World War II there were two annexes used.  The Lanham Funds were made available for childcare to enable mothers to join in war work and the Nursery was affiliated with this program under the supervision of the Board of Education.

In 1942, Rockford Day Nursery was one of the first Nurseries in the State to be licensed by the Child Division of Public Welfare of the State of Illinois.  It had been decided, “all child agencies must comply with certain standards and must qualify for a license.”  Prior to licensing, the Nursery had programs in place for nutrition, fire drills, sanitation, immunization, and a health care program.  These were developed with input from local agencies such as the City Fire Department and the Public Health Department.

In 1949, a twenty member board, with Mrs. Philip Mattison as president, and Mrs. R. E. Tenney as building chairman, had a successful campaign to raise money for a much needed new building.  It was built on the playground.  The new facilities were opened in February 1951.  A State license was received to care for seventy-five children from the age of two years to first grade.

In 1971, 4-C (Community Coordinated Child Care) was established to coordinate childcare services in the Rockford community.  In 1972, Title IV-A funds (federal dollars with local match - United Way) were begun.  These funds were administered by and channeled through 4-C.  In 1976, Title IV-A funds were replaced by Title XX.  4-C was dissolved in 1981 as an umbrella agency for day care centers.

One of the first Executive Directors of the Nursery was Mrs. Edna Hugg of Canton, Ohio with Mrs. Peggy Evans assisting her for one year prior to becoming the Executive Director in 1938.  Mrs. Evans retired in 1980 after forty-three years of service to Rockford Day nursery. Mrs. Rosalind Reis became Director of the Nursery in 1986.

In the summer of 1982, a memorial playground was installed as part of the 65th anniversary celebration of the Nursery.  In August of 1989, a new wing was added to the existing structure and expanded services were added to care for children through 12 years of age.  A Before and After School and Summer Day Camp Program would fill the needs of children in Kindergarten through 6th grade outside of the academic year.

In August of 1989, through a bequest by former board member, Mildred Kral, and a capital campaign, a new wing and expanded services to care for children through 12 years of age.  

After 88-years in downtown Rockford, the nursery had to relocate due to the construction of the Winnebago County Criminal Justice Center.  The move was made possible through a generous donation by the Clarcor Foundation, to purchase the former Clarcor Corporate Headquarters.  Renovations were completed in record time (6 months) and were funded by the purchase of our downtown location and fundraising by the capital campaign committee of the board of directors.  Playgrounds were constructed with the help of Kids Around the World and the Winnebago County Kiwanis Clubs.

The additional space of the current location has enabled Rockford Day Nursery Early Learning Center to expand its programs to include infants and toddlers.  

To this day, the Kiwanis are still one of the generous supporters of Rockford Day Nursery. In addition to their financial support, they also organize and plant a beautiful garden along with the children at the center each year. 

Here at Rockford Day Nursery & Early Learning Center, we’re committed to investing our expertise and resources in order to further achieve our cause. 

From its inception and to this day, the mission of Rockford Day Nursery has remained the same: “to provide day care and education to young children whose parents are employed or training for work.”

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