Jefferson Defrees Family Center celebrates 100 years of service

The Jefferson DeFrees Family Center (JDFC) is celebrating 100 years of service to the Warren community in May 2013. Come and join in the celebration on Saturday, May 4, from 2 to 4 p.m. for an ice cream social and tours of the building. Entertainment will be provided by Marty’s Bubble Gum Machine.

During its 100 years of operation, the JDFC has seen many changes but has remained service minded by providing programming to benefit the Warren community. The JDFC is a community centered, family oriented organization which strives to promote and encourage opportunities for all to grow through interaction, education, awareness, and recreation. It should be noted that the entire community is considered members. Other than a nominal fee to use the fitness center, enroll in classes, and the child care fees, participation in the classes or program at the JDFC does not require a membership.

For the first 85 years, the JDFC was known as the Warren Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA). Since its organization in 1913, the YWCA/JDFC has been providing community services and varied programming. The Young Women’s Christian Association was founded in England in 1855 and Miss Eva Jane Smith brought the organization to Warren in 1913. For the first six years the YWCA did not have a permanent home. That changed in 1919 when Mr. John P. Jefferson offered his house at Second and Market to house the organization. This began the long and supportive relationship of J. P. Jefferson to the YWCA.

As the organization continued to grow, it was determined that an activities building was needed. In 1927, J. P. Jefferson paid for most of the construction cost of the building which currently houses the Jefferson DeFrees Family Center.

The 1940s were a busy time at the YWCA. A cafeteria that served lunch and dinners operated until 1958. The original house and dorm rooms in the activity building were used as residences for young women coming to live and work in Warren. Due to a decreased demand for dorm type housing and the age of the buildings, the residence program was eliminated in 1973.

To address the needs of the community, several new programs were initiated. In 1974 the fitness center was added to the activities building. The fitness center is still in operation and as with all JDFC programs is open to men and women. A nine station Universal gym, stationary bikes, elliptical machine, hand weights and treadmills are available. In addition to the fitness center, various exercise, personal development, and arts and craft classes were added to the list of programming which continues today.

Another program added during the 1980s was the Women’s Center which provided a hotline for victims of domestic violence. Eventually the Women’s Center became A Safe Place and moved into the local domestic violence shelter.

Assisting the members of the community to find resources is a project which began in 1998. The JDFC took over the publication of the community resource directory. The directory is updated every two years and provides a listing of all the services available in the county. Local agencies are provided updates for their master binder and brochures are provided for distribution to clients.

Project Kid Safe has been a long standing program. Working with the Warren City Police Explorer Post, children are provided with free fingerprinting and photo identification packets. This program is an annual event at the Warren County Fair and other JDFC events.

One of the most resent program addition is the Court Appointed Special Advocate Program (CASA). CASA trains volunteers to advocate for abused and neglected children who are involved with the local court system.

The JDFC is now the new home of FBI fingerprinting. Those individuals who need to have their fingerprinting done for a job, being a foster parent or other reasons can call and make an appointment.

YWCA becomes Jefferson DeFrees Family Center

As the YWCA continued to assess community needs for programming, the mission of the Warren YWCA began to collide with the goals and objectives of the National YWCA. The national organization was focused on urban needs which did not suit the needs of the Warren community. This was not the first time that the two organizations did not agree.

Back in 1919 the National YWCA’s membership policy was to exclude women who were not members of Protestant churches. The Warren YWCA disaffiliated from the National YWCA. In that situation the National YWCA was willing to change their policy and Warren rejoined the national organization.

By 1996, the requests from the National YWCA were not relevant to the Warren Community and the National YWCA was not willing to adjust their policies and requests. After several meetings the Warren YWCA Board voted in 1997 to disaffiliate for the final time.

The Warren YWCA has had a strong history of local support. It began with J. P. Jefferson, the Community Chest beginning in 1926 (now United Fund) and Mrs. Barbara DeFrees among others who have donated or made bequests to the YWCA. Because of this local support the JDFC was able to continue and grow without being affiliated with a national organization. The name of Jefferson Defrees Family Center was selected to honor long time supporters of the organization.

JDFC Child Care

The JDFC has a history of providing high quality child care services. Child care began with a small preschool program for students with special needs in 1971. It developed into a small preschool operated in the 1980s. In addition to the preschool, the JDFC had a very active Y-Teen program where middle school age girls could come to the facility once per week to engage in socialization and perhaps make a craft. As more and more mothers went to work it was determined that the JDFC should offer an afterschool program. The afterschool program began in 1998.

The JDFC now offers a high quality child care, afterschool and preschool program. The child care facility at the JDFC is the only Keystone STAR 4 accredited program in Warren and Forest Counties. This accreditation comes through the Commonwealth of PA and is renewed every year. Child care facilities at a STAR 4 level have to meet many high quality standards including employing qualified staff, meeting environmental rating scale criteria and promoting family and community involvement.

The child care also houses a Pre-K Counts classroom. The Pre-K Counts program has been located at the center since it began in 2007. This program is federally funded and provides free preschool to those families that meet the income guidelines.

Organizations who call the JDFC home

The JDFC is a very busy place as many local organizations use the facility for the meetings and special events. In 2012 approximately 50 different organizations and groups utilized the facility totaling more than 42,000 individuals. Groups like Kiwanis Clubs, Zonta Clubs, Special Olympics, and the Garden Club as well as many 12 step group meetings, just to name a few.

For more information about the Jefferson DeFrees Family Center programs and services visit our web site at www.jdfamilycenter.org or stop in at 207 Second Avenue.