February 09, 2015

Neighborhood House Celebrates 120 Years on the West Side

Children and care providers gather to celebrate the 120 Year Anniversary of Neighborhood House last summer.  – Courtesy of Neighborhood House
Children and care providers gather to celebrate the 120 Year Anniversary of Neighborhood House last summer.  – Courtesy of Neighborhood House|| Children and care providers gather to celebrate the 120 Year Anniversary of Neighborhood House last summer. – Courtesy of Neighborhood House|| ||
By The West View

One hundred twenty years ago, before Poplar Grove, before Glendale, before I-15 and I-80, before Utah was even a state, there was Neighborhood House.

Originally called the Free Kindergarten Association, Neighborhood House opened its doors in 1894 as Utah’s first public kindergarten. Founder Emma J. McVicker, a former school teacher, saw a need in the working immigrant community for inexpensive childcare. At the opening, she proudly proclaimed, “the children of the laboring class [were to] be admitted…and their parents be allowed to donate whatever they wish.”

Today, the “Free Kindergarten Association” is now called Neighborhood House. It has expanded its services to include adult day care, but its goal – to provide good quality, affordable day care and support services…based on the ability to pay – has been the same for 120 years. The adult and childcare centers are both housed on the same campus in Poplar Grove.

Responding to Crisis

When Kelly Condie, Neighborhood House’s Youth Program Director of three years, discovered that one long-time user of the preschool and afterschool programs had to share a bed with her two- and six-year-old sons, she did not hesitate to act. Within a few days, Neighborhood House, by now a staple in its community, was able to secure a bed for the single mother.

“We have great support in our community,” Kelly says. “When we heard of the situation, we had community members willing to immediately provide a bed for the family.”

Neighborhood House has always been skilled at meeting the needs of the communities and the families that live in them. Through the years, Neighborhood House has seen health clinics, public bath houses, a women’s employment bureau, free or low-cost meals and housing, a dental clinic, and even annual visits from Santa. And in 1978, Neighborhood House pioneered the effort to help caregivers of adults, opening Riverside as Utah’s first adult day center, for people ages 18 and older requiring dedicated supervision.

Caregiver Connections that Work

In December 2013, Sarah came to Neighborhood House seeking care for her diabetic husband, Carl. Sarah had been struggling to find work due to her own special needs, and could not afford to pay for Carl’s care. While Riverside Director, Hailey Hadean, worked with the Salt Lake City Adult and Aging Coalition to secure support for the couple, Neighborhood House offered three months of free care to Carl.

“We are a part of the continuum of care,” says Hadean. “We try to be a liaison between our families and our community.

Looking to the Future

The Glendale and Poplar Grove neighborhoods are tight-knit communities whose families depend on one another for everything from friendship to finance. Neighborhood House is proud to have been part of these partnerships for over a century.

“Neighborhood House has a rich, 120-year legacy of seeing needs within our community and responding with impactful support,” says Executive Director Jacob Brace. “We want to continue the visionary and pioneering efforts that our founder, Emma McVicker started in 1894. From the first free, public kindergarten to the first adult day center, our history demonstrates our ability to work compassionately and effectively with many people, not just then, but also today and beyond.”   

To learn more about the resources and services Neighborhood House provides, please visit their website at www.nhutah.org, or visit the center at 1050 W 500 S.

*Some names have been changed to protect privacy.

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Programs for older children were an important part of Neighborhood House as early as 1914. These included girls clubs, boys clubs, sewing and shop classes as well as evening socials for teenagers. – Photos courtesy of Neighborhood House, circa 1930.