Margaret’s House celebrates 20 years with plans for playgrounds




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A. Sue Weisler

Ana Ambrosio, left, Julie Pitcher, Roberta DiNoto and Denise Speicher have plenty of stories about Margaret’s House, each having worked there 20 years.

Nearly 800 youngsters have come through the doors of Margaret’s House for day care over the past 20 years. To celebrate the center’s anniversary, a $200,000 fundraising campaign is being launched to build new educational play areas that will include rain barrels, sunshine screens and a butterfly garden.

“This is such a caring and loving place,” said Program Director Roberta DiNoto, one of four employees who has worked there the entire 20 years. “It makes a huge impact on the families that we touch. They know their children are being well taken care of.”

Childcare at RIT’s Henrietta campus began in 1972 with The Horton Child Care Center, named for Metha and Edward Horton. The demand for childcare grew over the years, and Margaret’s House opened in September 1996, named for Margaret Welcher Davis, the wife of RIT Vice President Emeritus Al Davis.

Most of the children have parents who work at RIT, and about a third have a parent who is a student. Enrollment fluctuates, but there are currently about 80 children—ages 8 weeks through 5 years old—at Margaret’s House, a bit under its maximum capacity of 90. Children up to 8 years old are accepted in the summer, when Little Kids on Campus hosts about 25 children each week for full days of swimming and computer work in labs with themes in arts and science, DiNoto said.

DiNoto said many families they have served remain in contact with them over the years. At least three children who received day care at Margaret’s House have come back to work as student aides in the classrooms.

“I call the people in our group my family. We have a great staff,” DiNoto said. Also celebrating 20 years working there are teachers Julie Pitcher, Denise Speicher and Ana Ambrosio.

Programming at Margaret’s House has changed over the years. “We try to stay on top of new opportunities to grow and learn as a center,” DiNoto said. “We’re part of a program from the American Heart Association’s Healthy Way to Grow program, finding different ways we can engage families and encourage exercise.”

Another change to be revealed soon are renovated play areas. DiNoto said the existing playground has served the facility well, but it’s time to replace it with a more modern one that will also be more educational for the children, with lots of garden space for flowers and vegetables. “It’s such a good way for them to learn about nutrition.”

She said the current playground sometimes has problems with drainage. Plans are to remove “old, metal playground ideas and go more natural, with logs to walk on, a natural play scape with a hill as opposed to a slide, a rain shield over the sand area, and rain collected in a barrel which can be pumped out by children pedaling a bicycle.”

They’ll need to raise $200,000 over two years. And RIT students may be encouraged to help out with the project. “We can engage classes,” DiNoto said. “We’re hoping a civil engineering class will help dig the foundation, maybe the biology group can help with our butterfly garden, and the engineering group, we’re thinking of a sunshade over the sandbox. We’re really hoping to make it a community opportunity for ideas and a little cost savings on our side.”

To contribute

If you would like to donate to the new playground, go to rit.edu/makeagift and under the designation, select “Other,” then type “Margaret’s House Playscape.”

201704/margaretshouse.jpg

A. Sue Weisler

Ana Ambrosio, left, Julie Pitcher, Roberta DiNoto and Denise Speicher have plenty of stories about Margaret’s House, each having worked there 20 years.

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This rendering shows a proposal for a $200,000 playscape at Margaret’s House.