Erie Neighborhood House is remarkable in its ability to provide relevant and innovative programs to a constantly changing community. From its earliest incarnation as the Holland Presbyterian Church to its current role as a community building organization, Erie House has created, adapted, and—when necessary—discontinued programs to most effectively meet the needs of its neighbors.
Educational programs have been and continue to be the cornerstone of Erie House services. English language and American citizenship classes were a part of Erie Chapel Institute's offerings, serving German, Polish, Italian, Greek and Ukrainian immigrants. Today's citizenship classes and services help Latinos in this same tradition.
Erie camps offered urban children rural recreation and fresh air.
Erie House has traditionally made special efforts to help children. From its participation in Chicago's Free Kindergarten movement in 1893 to summer camps beginning in 1915 to the opening of the Erie Elementary Charter School in fall 2005, the education and care of youth has been and continues to be integral to Erie's mission and evident in its programs.
Erie Chapel Kindergarten began in 1893 as one of 20 programs in Chicago's Free Kindergarten Association. Although the city's public schools eventually adopted public kindergarten as part of its curriculum, Erie's program continued through the 1960s.
Boys' and girls' groups provided a safe recreational alternative. Children came after school and played in Erie's gymnasium or joined sewing and craft clubs. Particularly at the turn of the century, settlement and neighborhood houses emphasized exercise and recreational activities as deterrents to juvenile delinquency.
As early as 1915, Erie saw summer camps as a safe haven for its children. Children got exercise and fresh air, as well as an opportunity to eat healthy, well-balanced meals. Camp Kirkland, a Salvation Army facility in central Illinois, was the first site of Erie's summer camp program. Erie kids later visited Camp Davies, owned by Dr. Liora Davies, a member of Erie's board of directors.
In 1942, Erie Neighborhood House purchased Camp Gray, a small parcel of land on Lake Michigan in Indiana. Members of the Presbytery of Chicago donated funds to cover the costs of transportation and food, while volunteers served as chaperones.
Erie's child care program in its current form—with preschool education and after-school care for school-age children—emerged in 1942. The United States' entrance into World War II conscripted eligible men in large numbers, driving women into the workforce at an unprecedented rate and creating a significant need for child care.