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Ossining Children's Center Starts 117th Year

OSSINING, N.Y. – More than 117 years ago, the Ossining Children’s Center opened as one of the first child care centers in the country, helping immigrant women whose husbands were killed or disabled while working on the Old Croton Aqueduct.

“When the nursery first opened, they provided free care and nobody came,” said Shawn Cribari of the Ossining Children’s Center. “They later found out that the women they were trying to help were simply too proud to take a handout. So instead they decided to charge a small fee and dozens of women in Ossining accepted.”

The idea sparked a tradition that lives on at the center.

“Everybody pays something,” said Claudia Weger, assistant executive director at the center. “Whether it’s $1 or $100, everyone contributes to what we’re doing here in some way. It’s given us a sense of a strong community.”

Roughly 20 years ago, the Ossining Children’s Center existed as a single building on South Highland Avenue, with a couple dozen staff members and roughly 50 children. When the center welcomed its latest class earlier this month, it filled several area buildings staffed by more than 50 local residents and caring for more than 150 children.

“We used to be in one little building, but we’ve been able to expand with the wonderful help of our board of directors and the people in this community and support from the Ossining School District,” Weger said. “Now we’re a much bigger community.”

The center provides care for children from 8 weeks old to fifth grade, offering preschool, prekindergarten and after-school programs throughout the year. The group partners with the Ossining School District to ensure that students in the school receive the same curriculum as Ossining School District students. The center provides a full-day camp for preschoolers and school-age children in the summer and an all-day prekindergarten class during the year.

The group also offers numerous enrichment programs, including a summer film animation workshop, a gardening program and a new piano class.

“We really feel like music and the arts in general are really important in the development of preschool children and help to foster all different types of learning,” Weger said. “We are very excited about all of our programs and we’re really looking forward to seeing what the kids do with these programs in the years to come.”

To learn more about the center and its programs, residents are asked to visit the group’s website .

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