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Helen Gordon Child Development Center turns 30

The Helen Gordon Child Development Center (HGCDC) at Portland State University celebrated 30 years of child care through a series of events over the week of Oct. 15 through 21. A pancake breakfast and an open house were among the celebration’s highlights.

The pancake breakfast brought together many generations and families to celebrate 30 years of child-care service.

HGCDC is the child care program at PSU. It serves two purposes. It provides full and half-day preschool programs for children 18 months to five years old, and also functions as a laboratory for students and faculty participating in observation, research and practicum activities in early childhood education and related fields.

“I have been impressed with the quality of teachers and their level of care and concern for the children. It’s a very nurturing environment,” Stephen Aaron, a parent of one of the center’s students, said.

The childcare program at PSU began in 1971 as the Portland State Daycare Center and was the result of a staged sit-down by student mothers in the university president’s office who wanted daycare services while they attended classes. The first center began with 20 children housed in the basement of Smith Memorial Center. In 1973, the program moved to its current location at 1609 S.W. 12th Ave. and gradually grew to its current enrollment capacity. The center was renamed the Helen Gordon Child Development Center in 1974 in honor of civil rights and childcare activist Helen Gordon, who was instrumental in bringing the center to PSU.Carrie Conklin, a teacher at the center, had this to say about her experience: “I have enjoyed interacting with kids as well as being involved with great teachers and parents. It’s just lots of fun and hard work, but it’s joyful.”

Future plans for the HGCDC include expanding the existing facility with the addition of an annex building which is expected to open in 2003. In addition, the center is seeking to combine all other child care/family services at PSU through the Graduate School of Education.

Helen Gordon was born in Chicago in 1912 and became an activist for civil rights and social and economic justice. She began her work in early childhood education during World War II and ran a variety of daycare and preschool programs in Georgia, Mississippi and Tennessee before moving to Oregon in 1953. Gordon directed the preschool at Portland’s Jewish Community Center and pioneered integrating mentally challenged with “normal” children. In 1965, she became the director of the Metropolitan Area Steering Committee and was one of the founders of Head Start in Oregon, a federally funded program which provides day care for underprivileged children.

Gordon heavily campaigned and lobbied for funding support of day care programs in the region and was instrumental in establishing the childcare program at PSU.

Gordon died in 1984 after battling with multiple sclerosis for over a decade, she was 72.For more information about how to become involved with or enroll children in the Helen Gordon Child Development Center, contact Ellie Justice, Director at 503-725-5322 or visit their Web site,