Summer 2012: Dallas Independent School District closes the historic City Park Elementary school. Located directly across the street from Dallas Heritage Village at Old City Park’s entrance, staff were incredibly saddened that this hub of neighborhood activity was closing.
Summer 2013: Vogel Alcove, a non-profit that provides childcare for homeless children ages 6 weeks to 5 years, announces that they will be renovating City Park Elementary and moving their entire operation into the building by Spring 2014.
Summer 2014: Children from Vogel Alcove are visiting Dallas Heritage Village (DHV) a few times a month for specially designed field trip experiences
How did we become a go-to destination for homeless children? Dallas Heritage Village is located in the Cedars, a neighborhood just south of downtown that has been struggling for a long time. Over 90% of the students that attended City Park Elementary were homeless. There are many social service agencies near us, including the city operated homeless facility. For years, we’ve worked with these fellow non-profits in various ways, including providing free field trips, hosting special events, and providing job skills training through various building restoration projects. But these non-profit friends have never been located within walking distance of DHV.
|Photo by Vogel Alcove|
- Their kids made ornaments for one of the trees at our annual Candlelight event. Vogel Alcove staff and volunteers came to help us with activities, as well as share information about Vogel Alcove with our visitors.
- Two of our staff members are now regular volunteers at Vogel Alcove.
- If either of us have big events, we borrow parking from each other.
- They’ve taken some of our excess mulch for their raised garden beds.
- We’re in each other’s disaster plans.
I asked Katie to share her perspective on our partnership:
This summer, Dallas Heritage Village has opened its doors to provide a "home away from home" for the young children of Vogel Alcove who are experiencing homelessness. Walking back in time to picnic under the towering pecans and play yard games in the picket fenced backyards of the historic homes has provided our young children a connection to the past as well as a respite from the speed of urban life.
Working in close partnership with the museum staff, we have created customized experiences that accommodate the specialized needs of trauma-informed care while providing developmentally appropriate cognitive, physical, social, and emotional learning opportunities for our infants, toddlers, and preschoolers.
Photo by Vogel Alcove
Hearing stories told by grandparents; feeling soft, raw wool as it is spun into yarn; smelling fragrant herbs grown for made-from-scratch cooking; tasting sweet, juicy watermelon under a tree at a holiday picnic; and watching the chickens, donkeys, and sheep, the children have received authentic sensory-based learning experiences that develop emerging social, reasoning, and language skills in a historic context that is both supportive and calming. They will be able to continue to draw from these positive experiences as they transition to their next settings.
It may be unlikely that a social service non-profit will move in across the street from your museum. But all museums have neighbors, and it’s crucial that museum staff get to know them. When I first met with Karen a year ago, I had no idea where things would lead. Though this partnership has definitely made our summer busier than anticipated, we have all learned so much from each other. Stay tuned—we’re just getting started!