Post by Sandra L. Jackson, President & CEO of House of Ruth
As I mentioned in my May article (you can read it here), housing is and has always been the foundation of House of Ruth’s services. But a crucial service ― a vital service ― that we also provide is childcare. And if you have children, you recognize that high-quality childcare is expensive, hard to find, and vital to a parent’s success (it is impossible to work if your kids are not in a safe place).
The first decade of House of Ruth was focused on helping as many women as possible; and building stable funding. As the 1980s turned into the 1990s, House of Ruth finally felt we were in a position ― well, we realized we had to be able ― to provide childcare. But, as with housing, from the beginning we knew we needed more than ‘just’ childcare. Trauma impacts children even in the womb, and the clients we serve have experienced multiple traumas. We opened in 1976 as a shelter for women but realized almost immediately ― if you want to help women, children very often come with them.
So, Kidspace opened in 1990, in the basement of a church. In addition to highly skilled, motivated teachers who wanted children at House of Ruth to catch up and even surpass their peers, we have always focused on offering additional services from occupational and speech therapies to individual therapies as appropriate. Most of the children at Kidspace are not delayed due to a lifelong diagnosis but are delayed because of the traumas they’ve experienced. Given care, and time to heal, most of the children we serve at Kidspace enter kindergarten ready to learn and grow.
After moving around for a few years, House of Ruth invested in and purchased two homes on Pennsylvania Ave SE that had hosted a family-run private school. While the homes were not built for childcare, they were a huge step up for both the staff and the children. Thirty years after the purchase, though, those homes were dilapidated, run-down and not adequate spaces for children to learn and thrive.
In 2016, a generous donor committed $1,000,000 to build a new Kidspace on the existing land. With that commitment, a vision of a world-class childcare center with facilities that match the quality of care always offered at Kidspace, came into being. I was serving as operations director at this time, and while I knew raising the money and building the space would be difficult ― I also believed strongly that it was the only path forward for House of Ruth. As I moved up into Interim Executive Director, Executive Director, and now President & CEO I kept that vision of serving children in an incredible space. Because of my vision, and that of our board, and most especially because of the amazing support of our donors ― that vision, THIS YEAR!, became a reality. Here is the virtual tour of Kidspace, and a picture of the children coming into the space on the first day we opened in March 2021.
I will say what touched my heart the most is the little girl who came into this amazing space, with the giraffe balloon arch and a cookie and stuffed animal to greet them, crying. When we asked her what was wrong, her mom explained, “She loves her teachers so much she doesn’t want to come to a new school. I explained that the teachers are the same, but she’s still worried.” When she saw her teachers ― more than the new playground, or fancy building ― it reassured her, and she joyously came to school. That’s the truth of House of Ruth ― no matter the building, our clients are treated like superstars by our caring, compassionate and concerned staff.
It’s what has helped keep me going this year ― that and driving by Kidspace at night ― I still can’t believe how beautiful it is when it is adorned with the lights at night. Thank you for making the vision a reality!