After multiple years of fundraising and working with local organizations and philanthropies, Neighborhood House opened the doors to its adult facilities on May 19. The adult center joins the children’s center, officially completing the new campus and expanding capacity for children by 70% to 300 and adults by 60% to 75. The campus is designed to bring the children and adults that the Neighborhood House serves together under one roof, enhancing the experience for both client populations.
According to Executive Director Jennifer Nuttall, the new facility “allows Neighborhood House to serve more families in the community with enhanced programs.” By combining the children’s and adult centers in one campus with facilities like classrooms, a large kitchen space, a greenhouse, recreational areas, and a therapeutic garden, Nuttall said that Neighborhood House can better “strengthen social interaction between age groups, promote environmental stewardship, and support nutritional education.”
These expanded capabilities are all in addition to the Neighborhood House’s core work, which is to provide caregiving for child and adult clients. At first glance, the facility can certainly be described as a daycare center that serves low-income families. However, this would understate the significance of contributions of this organization.
Through the process of providing food and shelter to their clients, Neighborhood House creates a foundation for community residents to be more successful in life by allowing traditional caregivers to pursue economic and professional opportunities that would otherwise be unavailable to them. Nuttall herself can attest to the Neighborhood House’s impact.
When you talk to people who work in the non-profit world, you frequently hear about their personal connection to their cause. However, when you meet someone whose first exposure to a non-profit organization was as a client – but who then rose through the ranks to become its leader – that passion for the cause shines through differently. This is the kind of light you feel when you meet Nuttall.
Nuttall became a client of the Neighborhood House when she unexpectedly became the guardian of her nieces and nephews. Overnight, she found herself navigating challenges that other parents and guardians have months or years to prepare for. She was working full time and needed a place that could take care of the kids that was safe and accessible – but also affordable. She discovered that Neighborhood House ticked all of those boxes.
It also had additional effects that are just as, if not more important. Neighborhood House provided her with the support necessary for her to continue developing her professional career while providing care for her children. Fast forward many years, and Nuttall remains dedicated to supporting other caregivers in a way that not only takes care of their dependents, but also creates an environment in which caregivers can continue their own development.
Established in 1894, Neighborhood House was initially known as the Free Kindergarten Association, with a mandate “to provide instruction for underprivileged children commensurate with instruction given in more favored districts; to become better acquainted with parents in poorly regulated homes; to raise the standard of living; and to provide, when necessary, food and clothing.” That legacy has not been forgotten, and founder Emma J. McVicker was recently honored with a ceremony and a National Historical Marker, setting her considerable legacy in literal stone.
That legacy of a focus on education continues at Neighborhood House, where the children’s classes all follow the same core curriculum with steps in place to support any child who may be struggling. An additional process identifies kids who may be struggling beyond classroom content, such as with emotional health. If such a concern is identified, the child receives additional evaluation and care from a trained mental health professional. The parents or guardians are involved, and the personalized support for the child is coordinated so the child can be successful in the classroom, at no additional cost to the client’s family.
Of Neighborhood House’s child clients, 70% are from single-parent homes, which experience additional challenges of coordinating work and daycare scheduling. To accommodate this challenge, The Neighborhood House has a flexible schedule in place. The building opens at 6:30 a.m. for the children’s programs, and kids of all ages from the same family can arrive at that time, including kids who are school-aged. They can spend their time at the Neighborhood House until it’s time to start school, when a bus takes them to their school.
Neighborhood House also provides after-school programs. School-age kids are picked up from their schools by the same shuttle service and returned to the facility to wait for their parents or guardians to leave work to pick them up.
Additionally, Neighborhood House cares for aging or special-needs adults who don’t require medical care but who benefit from being out of the house and staying active during the day. Adult clients are offered a set of 12 activities daily that cover the emotional, cognitive, physical, and social stimulation needed to encourage independence, prevent isolation, and avoid premature placement in long-term care facilities. Activities range from dancing, gardening, cooking, painting, concerts, singing, crafts, bingo, walks, and service projects. They also go on field trips where clients can safely experience local attractions.
The true magic happens when adults and children of the center come together for combined activities. Once a week, the Neighborhood House organizes intergenerational activities. These occasions create opportunities for social engagement, nurture healthy bonds between generations, and provide intergenerational experiences that each group may otherwise not experience. Joint activities include gardening, music, song writing, dancing, crafts, games, walks, and many others.
When the dots are connected, the Neighborhood House’s impact is unmistakable. Everything the organization does strengthens the entire home where the client resides while also directly benefiting the client themselves. By providing a safe, clean, accessible, and affordable place for children and adults, the Neighborhood House gives an opportunity for the parents, guardians, and caregivers to improve their lives. The ability to work a flexible and longer shift to earn more money, the ability to open doors by pursuing education, the ability to take a breath of respite – the benefits to caregivers reach well beyond the care provided.
Neighborhood House is a small organization whose work improves the lives of families while creating a lasting impact on generations to come. Perhaps the best example of this is the late businessman and philanthropist Larry H. Miller, who attended Neighborhood House in his youth as the child of a working single mother. His contributions to our communities speak for themselves, and today, the Miller Group is one of the headline sponsors supporting Neighborhood House, helping other families create their own legacies.
During the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the completed campus, Don Stirling, an Executive VP in the Miller Group, said, “it is essential for communities to take care of each other. To learn to love another person, you must serve them.” In this framing of mutual care and respect, it’s not unreasonable to understand the service Neighborhood House provides its clients and client families as a form of love. Regardless of how those services are defined, they undeniably help break cycles of poverty and limited opportunity, empowering each generation in the families they serve and improving our community’s collective futures.
By the numbers:
- In 2021, the Neighborhood House served 108 adults and 472 children.
- In 2021, 109,040 meals were served.
Neighborhood House is always looking for volunteers. Opportunities include:
- Reading mentors in the childcare center
- Garden support volunteers
- Data analysis to develop a better understanding of how their services impact families and communities
For additional volunteer opportunities, events, and more information, visit www.nhutah.org or follow Neighborhood House on social media.