Crèche began in 1900 when Mrs. Frank Gifford (Josephine Fenton Gifford, daughter of Governor Reuben Fenton) suggested that her daughter and friends meet during Lent to sew garments for the infants at Women’s Christian Association Hospital. Lenten sewing meetings became a Crèche tradition that continues to this day.
During the war years when sewing supplies were at a shortage, Crèche members raised funds so that necessary garments could be sewn for the children in the hospital. Katryn Kotsi, a longtime Crèche member, designed the pattern for the infant gowns used by the babies at WCA.
In addition to the gowns and garments provided to WCA Hospital, Crèche has a long and rich history of helping children who were hospitalized at WCA and Jamestown General. In the early 1900s, a maternity bed for unwed mothers was paid for by Crèche. This enabled the girls to maintain their dignity and have babies without becoming a charge of the City of Jamestown.
In 1936 Crèche took responsibility for equipping, decorating and maintaining a cheerful and colorful children’s ward at the hospital, and they also assumed the daily free care of one sick child. In 1950 Crèche fulfilled its pledge of $20,000, the estimated cost of a new children’s wing, to ensure the health of Jamestown’s children. The wing was dedicated as the “Crèche Wing,” and maintenance and daily care payments were continued until 1967 when the State Medicaid program was activated.
Crèche was later able to provide pediatric and maternity equipment to Jamestown General while continuing its support of the needed equipment at WCA. Another renovation of the "Crèche Wing” was undertaken in 1993, and Crèche donated $20,000 once again.
Special fund raising projects have been the hallmark of Crèche history since the Easter Dances held at the Armory in the early 1900s. During the Depression, empty milk bottles were placed in stores and banks where the community could make contributions. Musical reviews, street sales of forget-me-not bouquets, style shows and card parties were all employed to raise operating funds to make Crèche's mission of helping to fulfill the needs of the children in the Jamestown community a reality.
After WWII, style shows and dances were held at the Crystal Ballroom to benefit Crèche. The funds raised enabled Crèche to donate money to the building fund of the Gustavus Adolphus Children’s Home (operated by the Lutheran Social Services), the renovation of Camp Gross and a donation to the Girl’s Club camp building, just to name a few.
During the 1990s, Crèche partnered with Roswell Park Cancer Institute to help local families with children suffering from cancer and other life-threatening illnesses. “Books for Babies” at the James Prendergast Library was another program entered into by Crèche to encourage parents to read to their children. Many other local organizations have been supported by Crèche through the years for the benefit of the children.
The bi-annual rummage sales presently held by Crèche were preceded by a thrift shop that was open from 1925-1928. The monies raised from the shop were first used to care for children who had working parents by Crèche's Day Nursery. When the nursery was closed during the Depression, the rummage sales were continued to help undernourished children. The rummage sales continue to this day and get better each year, providing much of Crèche's income to carry out its mission.
Crèche's Tag Days had its beginnings during the war in 1943. High school students volunteered to stand on the streets of Jamestown selling the now familiar red-and-white, diamond-shaped tags asking for donations to “help Crèche help a needy child.” Today you will see devoted and caring members asking for your contributions on tag days. The most successful fundraising event of the year for Crèche is also the community’s chance to become more aware of the organization, to donate and to help us with the children’s needs.
Today there are many committees that form our organization. Crèche is continually supporting the children of the community in unique and inspiring ways. Backpacks, school supplies, cribs, clothing, Christmas gifts, hospital equipment and summer camps are just some of the ways the joy of working together is shared. Each year, Crèche spends over $25,000 to support our youth and our future.