On September 12, 1983, Downtown Baltimore Children’s Center opened its doors to a small group of children. The
inspiration originated with Stephanie Reich, a city planner who was looking for child care for her preschooler near her workplace, and who was encouraged by the City Council President and the Mayor’s Office to pursue the idea. With the help of a small volunteer Board of Directors led by Mary McClung, President and representing First National Bank, Yvonne Moten as Vice-President and representing BG&E, Barbara Dent as Secretary representing Baltimore City, Chase Solomon as treasurer, and Paul Bekman as Counsel representing the Young Lawyers Assn., Stephanie managed to raise more than $100,000 for start up and to enlist Struever Bros. Eccles and Rouse for renovation. One of the hardest parts was finding a building that was affordable, could meet licensing requirements, and had space for an outdoor play yard . . . this took almost two years! Renovation began in June of 1983 after Mary Verona, in her wedding dress, signed the lease for First & Franklin Street Church’s building minutes before her marriage to David McClung, a member of First & Franklin Street Church.
A telephone was installed and Nancy Kramer, who had been working as a consultant with Stephanie and the board, was on site for supervision of the construction and to give tours of the first floor with descriptions of the program and how things would look on opening day. (When she wasn’t there, the contractors would answer the phone and take messages and the phone numbers of prospective parents.)
In August, Nancy was officially hired as Director of the Center. She immediately hired Susan Sandstrom and Bonnie Bain (both of whom had worked with her in other programs) and Labor Day weekend found Board members and their families and new teachers unpacking equipment and setting up one room and the office.
What faith was demonstrated on everyone’s part, especially the parents who brought their children on that first day! In February 1984, the two-year-old room was opened. In April 1984, there were enough children to expand into the third classroom in the first floor. Just when things seem to settle down, Stephanie Reich moved to Boston and Mary McClung moved to Delaware. Yvonne Moten of BG&E became President of the Board and Dixon Harvey became Treasurer. He saw the need to increase our enrollment and started fundraising to renovate the second floor.
In the fall of 1985 a new representative of First National Bank joined the board, Anita Prentice! In the spring of 1986 with Dixon Harvey as president and Anita as Treasurer, the new Kindergarten program moved into its new classroom and the Park Avenue center of DBCC reached its official capacity in September 1986. The capital costs of this expansion were made possible by a new consortium member – Johns Hopkins Hospital, School of Medicine, and Department of Pediatrics, headed by Dr Frank Oski, who became a staunch supporter of DBCC.
Anita began her years as president of the DBCC Board planning for the growth of our organization – the size of the board was doubled, committees were put in place, and the annual giving campaign was instituted. Margaret Williams became the Treasurer and everyone began the formidable task of building a second center. In 1988, the University of Maryland at Baltimore approached DBCC with the proposition of opening a second center on their campus (Angela Fowler-Young, then a DBCC parent, had been advocating for child care at UMAB for years). Knowing how difficult it was to find 8000 square feet with adjoining outdoor playground space, Nancy Kramer was undaunted by the sight of the dark and dingy maintenance garage on Arch Street. With the help of UMMS, UMAB, a DBED day care financing loan, BG&E, the city of Baltimore, local foundations, Governor Schaefer, and Willard Hackerman, the architectural design of DBCC parent Joe Ellis, and construction coordination of Dixon Harvey, DBCC’s University Center was opened in September 1989. Since then it has provided a model for Infant Toddler care and education and the building and playground have been toured by planners and architects from across the country.
In March 2001, Nancy Kramer announced her retirement and the Board of Directors hired Margo Sipes as DBCC’s new Executive Director. She strives to follow in Nancy Kramer’s footsteps, by continuing to provide outstanding early care and education for the children of parents who live or work in downtown Baltimore.
In January 2010, DBCC opened a second infant room at the center in the University of Maryland, Baltimore Campus, responding to the need for additional infant spaces. In August of 2010, DBCC closed the center located at Park Avenue. The congregation at First and Franklin Church was growing and the church needed their building back. DBCC continued to serve Baltimore’s families at its University Center location.
As DBCC celebrated its 30th anniversary, an exciting new chapter in our history opened up. Johns Hopkins University invited DBCC to compete to operate a new child care center on their Homewood campus. After a tour and a series of interviews, a fiscal overview and submission of a draft budget, DBCC was chosen to manage the new Homewood Early Learning Center at Johns Hopkins University. Homewood Early Learning Center opened in September 2015.
In 2017 DBCC and Johns Hopkins University began discussion about DBCC taking over management of the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Early Childhood Center and the delegate agency for Weinberg ECC’s Early Head Start Program. Those discussions concluded with the signing of a management agreement between JHU and DBCC for Weinberg ECC effective July 1, 2018.
This collaboration is the culmination of a decades-long relationship between the two organizations, and endorses their long term partnership to provide high quality early education and nurturing care to Baltimore’s families.
This child care collaboration by government, the business community, and Baltimore’s largest academic institutions has achieved its vision of providing quality child care for parents who live and work in Baltimore. DBCC has been enriched over the years by the support and involvement of many wonderful families and our superlative teachers. DBCC’s educational program has been approved by the Maryland State Department of Education. With the support of local foundations, consortium
members, and fundraising DBCC is committed to providing the highest quality, play- based, child-centered early education to Baltimore’s Children across socio-economic groups.