An early class at the Reba Early Learning Center.                  Submitted photo

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Reba Early Learning Center (RELC) was founded in 1966 by Hilda Carper along with supporters from Reba Place Fellowship. The first floor of 727 Reba Place was transformed into a place where families were provided with child care for their preschool age children.

In September 1966 preparations were concluded and the doors at 727 Reba Place opened as Reba Place Day Nursery. Ms. Carper was the sole staff person, and families were able to have child care without any cost to them. Over time parents provided volunteer support, and some received training, as teachers of preschool children.

The number of families needing child care increased during the 1970s and Reba Place Fellowship purchased and renovated the present building at 740 Custer Ave. Reba Place Day Nursery was staffed by volunteers and paid directors until 1991. As State requirements for childcare professionals increased, the board of directors made the decision for the preschool to be recognized as a not-for-profit entity, separate from Reba Place Fellowship.

Years later a $225,000 community development block grant from the City of Evanston enabled the purchase of the former Boston Linotype building, resulting in the present “three classroom” design. Additional funding was also provided through the United Way and community donors. State funds allowed enrollment for lower-income families. RELC still depends upon supporters, organizations, government agencies and family tuitions for financial support.

RELC needs continual support to succeed. The enrollment has grown to 60 children, ages 2-5. Teachers and administrators are educated with decades of experience as early childhood professionals. The annual operating costs are currently approximately $600,000. Costs for repairing the building and replacing deteriorated equipment are beyond  normal budget capabilities. RELC has played a significant role in the Evanston community for years. Approaching its 50th anniversary, RELC continues to serve as a vital member of the Evanston community.

RELC is a partner in the Evanston Cradle 2 Career collective impact initiative. RELC’s mission is to serve children and families of diverse cultural, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. National Association for the Education of Young Children accreditation and ExceleRate GOLD Circle rating validates that its program is of high quality. Committed staff  provide an emergent curriculum with a project-based approach that enables children to express their individuality and explore their environment while developing skills for cooperative interactions.

RELC takes pride in its ability to provide experiences that will aid in the positive development of each child’s confidence and self-esteem. The goal is that every child will be confident, eager to learn, and ready for kindergarten. Children best grow and develop through experiences that are culturally relevant and meaningful to them. RELC’s mission and vision are best met through respectful partnerships with families that foster and encourage the best in each individual.

Reba Early Learning Center will hold an alumni fundraiser, “Where Are You Now?” from 1 to 4 p.m. on Feb. 20 at 740 Custer Ave. Tickets are $5/person and $15/family. Proceeds will be used toward the purchase of a new playground climber. RSVP: 847 475-6480 or rebaelc@gmail.com.