Evanston Day Care celebrates 100th anniversary at gala

Jia You

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As Evanston Day Nursery celebrates its 100th anniversary, its mission remains the same: serving the needs of the local community, said director Sheryl Katz.

More than 70 Evanston residents attended the nursery’s centennial gala Saturday night at the Evanston Art Center, 2603 Sheridan Rd., which featured local blues band South Boulevard, a silent auction and an awards ceremony.

Founded in 1912 by a group of Evanston women to provide childcare for working families, EDN was the first day care in the city and one of the first in Illinois, according to its website. Originally spread out in three different locations, the nursery moved to 1835 Grant St. in 1955 when the Visiting Nurses Association donated the land.

The celebration Saturday began with a silent auction. Items for sale included four football tickets donated by Northwestern’s athletics department as well as an offer from Katz to stitch a customized baby blanket.

Katz also presented awards of appreciation during the gala. U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) was awarded the Red Door Award for the support she has demonstrated for the nursery. Laura Tilly, a former board member who has done pro bono legal work for the nursery for more than 10 years, was recognized as Volunteer of the Year.

“EDN had a big impact on my family’s life when my kids were little and I was a new parent,” Tilly said. “It really helped us, our family, and I wanted to just give back.”

Newspaper articles about the EDN filled an entire wall to document the nursery’s history. Over the past 100 years, EDN has remained responsive to a community that was changing over time, Katz said.

“The unique thing I think about Evanston nursery is that throughout a hundred years, it has … reinvented itself into whatever it is that met the needs of children and families in the community,” Katz said.

During the Great Depression, the nursery stopped its childcare service and focused on feeding children in the neighborhood, Katz said. In the 1990s, it developed an after-school care program in response to demands from the community. This year it expanded childcare service to children under 3 for the first time.

As part of its celebration, the nursery recently taught its children the concept of 100, Katz said. Ten children aged 2 to 3 each brought 10 items and lined them up in the room, while older children counted the letters in everyone’s name.

“That was learning about what 100 means in a way that makes it meaningful for them.” she said. “They got the concept that it’s a lot.”

Stephanie Lane-Baker, who has taught at the nursery for more than 15 years, said the event was like a family reunion for her.

“It’s like Thanksgiving,” Lane-Baker said. “It makes me feel really good to have been in this field and to have been able to give my heart and my soul.”