Five and a half cents … that's what a mother paid for a day's worth of child care in the Community Center in 1930. Twenty-six cents could purchase a boy's suit of clothes.
This social ministry had been started years earlier by the Methodists. A Methodist settlement was first organized in the spring of 1913 by Miss Josie Ragle, a deaconess of the M.E. Church, in an old building at Pine and Shelby streets. In January 1914, Deaconesses Ragle and Irene Duncan moved the Settlement to a house at Bates and Pine, where it became known as the Pentecostal Gospel Assembly. In December 1928, it was moved again, to a ten-room house immediately east of the Fletcher Avenue M.E. church. The Indianapolis City Council and the Church Extension Society of the M.E. Church jointly oversaw its operations.
The director, Josephine "Josie" Ragle, was an unsung but diligent laborer in the Lord's vineyard. She had been consecrated a deaconess by Bishop John L. Nuelsen in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1910. By 1913 she was one of seven deaconesses at the Indiana Conference's Deaconess Home at 922 N. Capitol Avenue. By 1921 she was superintendent of this home as well as director of the Fletcher Place Community Center. Then, after a stint in St. Louis, she would be found doing hospital social work in Los Angeles, California, from the 1940s to her retirement in 1955.
So, by 1928, Josie Ragle had been heading the Center for fifteen years, and now was joined by the church's pastor, Rev. William F. Russell, in supervising the rapidly expanding work. The next year, Rev. and Mrs. Albert J. Spaulding assumed the day-to-day leadership. Pastors and pastors' wives, deaconesses, and countless volunteers offered many services, including a medical-dental clinic, a library, day-care nurseries, meeting spaces for youth and adult groups, a food pantry, dinners, recreation, Sunday school, religious and financial counseling, and even parties and entertainment for the ever-changing neighborhood population.
A battered pair of shoes which a homeless man "earned" by mopping the Center's floor was the start of Goodwill Industries of Indiana in 1930. Rev. Spaulding spent five weeks observing the Goodwill Industries in Boston and established Indiana's first such program in the Center. Workers who couldn't find employment elsewhere were engaged to refurbish castoffs and donations for sale to the needy of the community at nominal prices.
In 1935, after outgrowing these earlier houses, the Community Center and Goodwill Industries rented the former Second Baptist Church on the southwest corner of Fletcher Avenue and Noble Street. The address of this building is now 410 South College Avenue. These two agencies played a vital role in helping the disadvantaged of southeastern Indianapolis survive the Great Depression.
In 1937, Goodwill Industries was incorporated as a separate, interdenominational organization and purchased its formerly rented building. In 1942, the Industries moved to other quarters and, in 1948, gave its equity in the building to the City Council and the Methodist Church Extension Society for the work of the Fletcher Place Community Center. The Center continued its programs at 410 South College Avenue for a number of years. Both organizations, now headquartered elsewhere in Indianapolis, are still actively providing valuable services to the city.
GPS: 39 45 38.98, -86 08 45.47