The Day Nursery of Abilene is a private, non-profit, Texas corporation, founded in 1972 to assist low-income working parents with affordable quality child care options. Although the premise for the beginning of the organization was to assist low-income families, all children are welcome to attend the program. The original roots of the agency extend back to 1933 when Mrs. Morgan Jones started the Negro Day Nursery so that working mothers, primarily domestic workers, had a place to leave their children. It was located in a residence at 1202 Ash Street. The original Negro Day Nursery was closed by the Taylor County Health Department in 1969, but was reestablished in 1972 under the name “Day Nursery of Abilene, Inc.”.
Day Nursery of Abilene has provided quality child care for children of working families with low-incomes for more than 30 years. Following is a timeline of the organization’s growth and accomplishments:
1973: The first child care facility opened on Ash Street to serve 25 children. Due to an immediate waiting list that number doubled to 50 within the first year.
1975: A second facility was needed and established in a church on Park Street in the Sears Park area to serve 75 children in the northwest area of the city.
1978: The need for a safe and stimulating environment for children of the working poor continued to escalate forcing the need for the creation of the third child care facility within five years. A facility opened in the Belmont Baptist Church building to serve 80 children on the south side of Abilene. This center was later moved to another church building acquired by Southern Hills on Vine Street in 1994. A capital campaign in 2004 led to securing a permanent site on the south side of Abilene for this center. It was constructed and opened in April 2006.
1982: The child care facilities served more than 200 children but the demand continued to escalate. The Ash Street Center was renovated to triple its capacity. In less than 10 years, the Day Nursery program experienced a substantial growth from one facility serving 25 children to three facilities.
1991: Day Nursery’s board of directors conducted its first capital campaign to construct a child care center for families working in the downtown Abilene area. In less than 20 years, Day Nursery’s centers were serving more than 300 children daily in three license facilities operating Monday through Friday from 7:30am to 6:00pm.
1992: Day Nursery’s Ash Street Center (first Day Nursery center) began the provision of night and weekend child care services. This service was moved to the downtown center when it opened for business in August 1993.
1993: Day Nursery opened its downtown center on Cedar Street where it continued the offering of child care services for an increasing number of parents working non-traditional hours. The hours of operation for children from birth through school age ranged from 6 a.m. to midnight, seven days a week. This was the first licensed facility in Abilene to offer this unique child care service. (The board made the decision in late 2006 to terminate these services as they are no longer economically feasible.) Founding executive director, Bea Ganson retired on December 31, 1993 after giving 21 years of dedicated service to the organization and community.
1998: 70 families came close to losing their reliable child care source when Day Nursery unexpectedly lost the lease of one of the church facilities. As a result, the Day Nursery board of directors and administration determined that it was in the best interest of the families and children served by the program that Day Nursery owns the facilities in which it operates child care programs. A grant from the Dodge Jones Foundation enabled Day Nursery to purchase a facility north of Cedar Street, which had become available for lease. An offer made to purchase the property was accepted and the additional Cedar Street facility (annex) was quickly renovated to temporarily relocate the Park Street Center.
1999: Funds were raised for a second capital campaign to construct a new facility in northwest Abilene on Sherry Lane. The $1.3 million goal was successfully achieved before the year ended.
2000: In October the Sherry Lane Center opened to serve families in northwest Abilene with a licensed capacity of 130 children.
2001: The original facility on Ash Street received a facelift inside and out, and the extended care (night and weekend) program moved to the Cedar Street annex (702 Cedar) in June. The facility’s license was combined with the downtown center’s license (as an annex) allowing 60 children to be served during night and weekend hours.
2004: A feasibility study led to a $1.9 million capital campaign to address a permanent south side child care facility, capital improvements for the other sites including the implementation of a technology plan and a maintenance endowment fund for the south side center.
2006: In April the new Vine Street Center opened on the south side of Abilene. A gym addition, finished in June, completed the project to address after school and summer care for school age children. Grants from the Community Foundation of Abilene, the City of Abilene (through its Community Development Block Grant) and funds from the Greathouse Charitable Trust provided funding for the gym addition.
2007: The board elected to phase out the extended care (night and weekend services) and moved the remaining program into the Cedar Street Center. All children were placed in alternate care in mid-January. In May 2007 the Day Nursery of Abilene received the first, ever Award of Excellence by the Community Foundation of Abilene in recognition of its work in the community on behalf of families and children. An unrestricted grant accompanied the recognition. The administration offices moved into the 702 Cedar annex in mid-summer following renovation of the building made possible through grant funding from the Shelton Family Foundation. The grant provided funding to expand the administration.
2008: Celebrate! 2008 event hosted by the board of directors and advisory committee commemorated the 35th anniversary of the Day Nursery of Abilene. Dian Graves Stai addressed an audience of 200+ guests during a luncheon to kick of the “sponsor-a-child” campaign to secure program funding for the next 35 years as the program has grown to accommodate 600 children being served in four-licensed facilities representing 400 families. The majority of families served are low-income. United Way of Abilene, Vision Grant funding awarded to begin a School Readiness Integration (SRI) collaborative partnership between Abilene ISD, Region 14 Education Service Center and Day Nursery of Abilene (two sites) to prepare preschool age children for school.
2009: Day Nursery opened its second school readiness satellite classroom at the beginning of the school year. Cedar Street and now Ash Street participate in the collaborative partnership to prepare children for school. The United Way Vision Grant funded both classrooms through May 2010. The SRI partnership is the first of its kind in the State of Texas and current, proposed legislation expands these opportunities state-wide. Day Nursery’s fourth employee was celebrated for achieving 30 years with the agency which has been in existence for just thirty-six years. Day Nursery advanced to the social-networking arena by joining Facebook. Day Nursery answered the call to raise matching funds to receive a challenge grant from the Shelton Family Foundation. This funding assisted with the financial impact to minimum wage for the agency from 2007-2009. Day Nursery hosted its First Annual Putt “Fore” Children Miniature Golf Tournament fundraising event at PrimeTime Entertainment Center in October. The event raised significant funds for the agency earmarking it as a signature event for years to come.
2010: Day Nursery board of directors met in a planning session in April which sparked the process for the board to focus on strategies to move forward into the future. Professional consultants facilitated board planning, as well as establish a mission, a vision and core values for the board. These steps will lead to a strategic plan to guide the board in the years ahead. The Sherry Lane Center celebrated 10 years of operation in October.
2011: Day Nursery of Abilene was selected (underwritten by The Dodge Jones Foundation) to be one of twenty hosts for “Together 2011” project, a year-long celebration of Abilene’s 130th anniversary designed to promote community involvement while improving the city in three main areas: quality of life, children’s education, and beautification. The board continued its fundraising efforts with the most successful Mexican Dinner and Putt “Fore” Children in the history of these events. A fundraising event was hosted by the board in effort to raise awareness and individual support through the Sponsor-a-Child campaign to help grow Day Nursery of Abilene’s endowment for the future.
2012: After in-depth review of facilities and program for Day Nursery in 2012, the board voted to close the original DNA site and consolidate it with other centers. The board began its preparations for 40th anniversary celebration of the agency.
2013: Day Nursery announced its "True Heroes" event celebrating its 40th anniversary and featured key note speaker, NFL Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, the league's only four-time MVP and a 12-time Pro Bowl selection, who has earned his place among the NFL's greatest quarterbacks. The event hosted nearly 1200 guests on Tuesday, March 19th at the Abilene Civic Center.
2014: Day Nursery of Abilene’s board of directors voted to expand the Vine Street Center by proposing to add three classrooms and approximately 45 child care spaces to the center to help with the increasing waiting list and the community’s need for quality child care services. Over $500,000 was raised for the expansion project.
2015: Completed the campaign to expand the Vine Street Center. Construction began in January and three new classrooms opened September 1st, increasing the center’s licensed capacity by 45 children. The agency was recognized as the Abilene Reporter News, Reader’s Choice for “Best Child Care Provider” for the eighth year in a row. Board retreat held in May established four goals (1. Branding/Rebranding, 2. Develop Annual Campaign, 3. Enhance Current Program, 4. Attract Quality Staff) for strategic planning.
2016: Day Nursery progressed with a focus on the board goals established in 2015. The agency was recognized as the Abilene Reporter News, Reader’s Choice for “Best Child Care Provider” for the ninth year in a row. All three locations were recognized as Texas Rising Star (TRS) 4-star providers, the highest rating available.