-History of the Denver Lions Early Learning Center (DLELC)-
The Early Years: 1921-1957
In 1921, the Denver County Council of Parent Teachers Association purchased a plot of land that they then donated to the City and County of Denver to be used as a park and community center. The area is named for Isador Rude who was a local tailor and generous supporter of the community.
The Rude Park community center was soon established and the first school opened under the auspices of the Junior League in 1932. The school was available free to children of mothers who were taking classes and engaged in activities at the community center. The need for a full-time school for the children of working mothers soon became apparent. The Denver County Council of Parent Teachers Association sought funds to establish this nursery.
In 1945, the City of Denver took over and operated the school six days a week at low cost to the parents. Management issues resulted in closure. The school was taken over by the Community Chest (now known as United Way) in 1950. At that time the school was housed in a sixty-year-old home that is believed to have belonged to Isador Rude. The house was inadequate; it was condemned by the City of Denver, then repaired until repair was no longer feasible.
Denver Lions Involvement: 1958-present
In 1958, when the school was ordered to vacate the property, it was serving thirty-five children. A long-time Denver Lions member Sid Buka, brought the situation to the attention of the Denver Lions Foundation, who accepted the challenge of building an adequate facility to house a day care center. The Desk and Derrick Club (a women’s club for secretaries of attorneys and oil companies) purchased six lots needed for the project and donated them to the Denver Lions.
Ground was broken on the 4,600 square foot center at 1275 Decatur Street in September 1958. The new building was estimated to cost $60,000. Some twenty members of the Denver Lions Club who were associated with the building trades donated over $13,000 of the cost in materials and services. Other Club members contributed $10,000 in cash to the get the project started. Twenty-five members of the Denver Lions Club personally guaranteed a $25,000 loan with the Colorado Federal Savings and Loan Association to round out the financing. The building was dedicated in April 1959 and has been serving as a daycare center ever since. The loan was paid off in 1961 and the note was burned at a meeting of the club in December of that year.
Members of the Denver Lions Club established a Board of Directors to manage the facility and education program. Since 1972, Mile High Montessori Early Learning Center has provided education curriculum and staffing. The Denver Lions Club remains responsible for managing the Denver Lions Early Learning Center (DLELC) facility and continues to support it through the work of the Board of Directors.
By 1985, the building was in need of renovation. Over the next four years the DLELC Board and the Denver Lions Club were able to secure $225,000 in renovation funds from the following organizations. The Community Development Agency: $140,000, Denver Lions Early Learning Center Board: $35,000, the Schlessman Family Foundation: $30,000, the Denver Lions Foundation: $15,000, Mile High Child Care, Denver Lionesses, Denver Parent Teachers Association, and Albert Pike Lodge: $5,000.
Building for the future: 2021 and beyond
The Denver Lions Club continues to support the center by providing volunteer time for workdays and participating on the Board of Directors.
At one time the facility provided day care for sixty children, but due to changing standards the facility can accommodate only forty children today. The Center offers comprehensive day care for children infants to five years. The children at the center are primarily from single parent homes that are at or below the poverty line. The parent must be actively working or enrolled in school to learn a vocation. The Denver Lions Early Learning Center is rated level 4 (on a 1 to 5 scale). In Colorado all early childhood education programs are assessed using Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRRIS) known as Colorado Shines.
The DLELC Board has committed itself to raising $7 million for a capital campaign that will fund a state-of-the-art facility that will allow the center to serve a greater number of children. The new facility will allow us to maintain the quality of learning provided and better support the tremendous need for this facility for the families and children in this Denver neighborhood.