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Nonprofit day care center near downtown open to all

September 29, 2004|by JANET HEIM

janeth@herald-mail.com

History surrounds Hagerstown Day Nursery at the corner of Washington and Locust streets near downtown.

Not only is the day care housed in a building that is on the National Register of Historic Places, but it is also one of Maryland's oldest chartered charitable institutions, according to the nursery's brochure.

The nursery opened in 1815 as a school for destitute children between the ages for 5 and 12.

Isabella Neill and three other female benefactors opened the school and began teaching, modeling it after the "Ragged Schools" in Philadelphia that were started to educate needy children. With support from the community, they were able to hire a teacher.

The property at Washington and Locust streets was purchased in 1831 for $480. The two-story log house on the property was rented and used for the school until the present building was built in 1842 with a bequest by Martin Hammond.

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The year-round program has changed with the times, said current Director Trina Johnson. She said it now serves as an affordable day care for all income levels, providing a safe learning environment and nutritious meals and snacks cooked on site.

Activities include arts and crafts, music, story time, field trips, outside play and educational activities focused on preparation for kindergarten.

"It's the cheapest day care in Washington County," Johnson said.

She said tuition remains low because the nonprofit school, which is a United Way agency, is supported by grants and private donations. A limited scholarship fund is available to those who qualify.

The nursery can accommodate 20 students between the ages of 2 and 5, with a location convenient for downtown employees or residents, Johnson said. She said that all-day Head Start and kindergarten have impacted enrollment.

"I don't think people know it's there," said board member Laura Bendell. "It's such a nice little place. I wish more people would utilize it."

An open house was held last week to thank those who have supported the day care with time and money.

For more information about enrollment, call 301-739-5339.

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