A sum of money was left to East Tenth UMC in 1995 from a fomer Sunday school teacher with one stipulation: it must be spent on children. After much prayer and community analysis, the answer was clear: the neighborhood needed a safe place for children. They needed more daycare and after-school care.
Jean Casmir-Hill, a member of East 10th UMC, was hired in 1996 to use the money to launch what became the East Tenth United Methodist Children and Youth Center. She has led the Center as Executive Director for its entire 25 year history. The church had a long commitment to children’s ministries such as Vacation Bible School and camp, so the Center’s first initiative, an after-school program, grew naturally out that.
After partnering with the John Boner Neighborhood Center across the street, the team learned that 34% of women quit the HSE/GED courses that helps them obtain their High School Equivalency degree and find jobs due to a lack of reliable childcare. So East Tenth UM Children and Youth Center pursued and received a $40,000 grant from the , East Tenth’s childcare was opened in 1998.
In 2014, the Center became part of the Early Learning program as an Early Headstart Site, which means that it is equipped to serve 24 infants and toddlers as part of federal programs to support low-income families through early learning and development, health, and family well-being efforts.
In 2019 the Center became an accredited ‘Level 4 Paths to Quality Provider.’ This accreditation represents “a commitment to the highest level of professionalism in high quality childcare” and is the highest rating a childcare provider can obtain.
The national average puts childcare costs around 30% of a family’s income. The Center puts their rates in the 10-15% range with a sliding scale. This reflects the heart of the Center’s mission and their ministry mindset.
“We believe that all children deserve quality care and education regardless of socioeconomic status or a family’s ability to pay,” said Jean. “This means that the Center has to fundraise.”
She tried to list the many partners that the Center has had from the INUMC, local businesses, and grants, and then said with a grateful laugh, “There are too many to name. We have been supported by so many.”
During the pandemic, the support continued. The Center was able to access a number of state and local grants that facilitated several improvements to the space. They added two outdoor play spaces to ease worries about indoor COVID-19 transmission. They are currently looking to fund constructing a new entrance with an elevator so more space can be freed up for another infant room. “The waitlist is long,” said Jean.
This winter marks an emotional time in their 25–year history as East Tenth UMC closed on December 26. The building has been transferred over to the Center. Although the church has ended public worship services, the Center boldly moves into the future to continue their faithful legacy of outreach, service, and ministry that began in 1911.
As a long-time member of East Tenth, Jean said, “The church’s support for the Center has been invaluable. We started as a ministry and we intend to stay that way. We want to remain and impact the community.”
In their more than two decades, East Tenth’s commitment to their community has been proven time and time again. Thousands of children have come through their programs, and they’ve employed over 500 people. They serve as a community hub connecting families with needed resources and family supports.
Jean has a scrapbook of the children and youth who have been a part of the Center. “You never know if you have an impact on people. Years and years later, one of the young people that were there when I first started came and talked to me. He was having some struggles as a young adult. He said, ‘I knew I could come here, and I knew I could talk to you.’ When someone comes back to visit, I like to go make notes in the scrapbook to keep track of them. I do hope that they’re all doing well and thriving in this world.”
The Center is a pillar for the neighborhood and for the generations. For one family, a third generation has just started in the infant room.
Jean is excited about the future and all that God is doing. Although one season of East Tenth UMC’s ministry has come to a close, God is evident in continuing this very good work begun in them through the East Tenth United Methodist Children and Youth Center.
“We want to continue to be the best quality we can be. We want to be a youth center that is really a community center connecting families with amazing partners all around. We intend to carry on this ministry,” said Jean.
Supporting education and schools is one of the three focus areas for the Indiana Conference’s Children Matter Most Initative. You can learn more about Children Matter Most and find resources .