It may be hard to believe, but the COVID-19 pandemic isn’t as bad as it could be. Seriously? Yes. For instance the 1918 H1N1 flu virus infected one-third of the world’s population because, as the CDC reports, “control efforts worldwide were limited to non-pharmaceutical interventions such as isolation, quarantine, good personal hygiene, use of disinfectants, and limitations of public gatherings, which were applied unevenly.” And, of course, the technology and ability to research the cause and vaccine for protection really didn’t exist.
While this catastrophic global disaster was taking place, North Texas was blessed with people and organizations striving to build the young community.
One case in point was when three organizations — the Clara Chaison Free Kindergarten and Training School, the Free Kindergarten Association and the Dallas Free Kindergarten and Industrial Association — came together to officially establish the Clara Chaison Free Kindergarten and Training School on September 16, 1901, at Neighborhood House.
The original intent of its founders (Mrs. Morris Liebman, Mrs. Beulah A. Marshall, W.H. Gaston, Mayor Ben E. Cabell, George N. Aldredge, Oliver Thomas, J.C. Conway, George W. Blair, Alex Sanger and Wendel Spence) was “to help women, primarily those working in the Dallas cotton mills.” While their parents worked, the children were not only cared for but also received education. By 1903 the enrollment was 350 children with three child care centers and many children on wait lists.
Not only was the Dallas program “the first city in Texas to offer free childcare,” but the agency evolved and grew despite the 1918 pandemic, the Great Depression and two World Wars to become what is today’s ChildCareGroup “impacting more than 50,000 lives every year through it programs” and serving as “a national model for the best practices in early childhood education and holistic services for parents.”
According to ChildCareGroup CEO Tori Mannes, “Our founders understood then what we know is still true – women who need and want to work to support their families can’t do so without safe, affordable, quality child care. They also understood families and the entire community suffered when parents couldn’t work and children didn’t receive early childhood care and education. We are proud that 120 years later, CCG continues to operate and advocate for high-quality early education and child care, while solving ‘She-cession’ and systemic social justice issues.”
To kick off its 120th anniversary year of memories, ChildCareGroup is holding a retirement drive-through parade at CCG’s Martin Luther King Jr. Center on Friday, March 5, at 11 a.m. honoring Bobbie Blair, who has served as a preschool teacher for 51 years.
In the days, weeks and months ahead, CCG will have more events, news and memories to celebrate its first 120 years.