St. Ann Center for Intergenerational Care in Milwaukee has been blazing trails for nearly 40 years.
Founded in 1983, St. Ann Center was among the first in the nation to provide both childcare and adult day care in one center.
Today, it offers childcare for infants to school-age children, a youth mentorship program for teens, and adult day care for frail elders, adults with disabilities and people dealing with dementia. In addition, the center runs a full-service medical clinic and a dental clinic for adults and children with disabilities.
“(Seniors) can come here at 6 o’clock in the morning and enjoy a full day of activities, nursing care, dental care, baths, (physical therapy), (occupational therapy), speech,” said Sister Edna Lonergan, founder and president of St. Ann Center. “(We) have everything here, so a caregiver doesn’t have to leave work and come and pick up her loved one and take them somewhere for some service. We really have it all.”
Its childcare program offers early head start, after-school programs and summer camp.
A core part of St. Ann Center’s mission is to bring together children, frail elders and adults with disabilities – all of whom are able to interact through storytelling, music and games. The interactions are symbiotic: Adults find purpose through mentoring youth, while children benefit from the elders’ attention and learn to respect people who are different from them.
St. Ann operates two locations: its original Stein campus on Milwaukee’s south side and its Bucyrus campus, a $25 million center that opened in 2015 on the city’s north side.
In addition to providing day care, the Bucyrus campus includes a 250-person capacity bandshell, which features family-friendly entertainment for the community.
It also launched a business development program, offering trainings that aim to leverage entrepreneurship as a vehicle out of poverty. It partners with Milwaukee entrepreneurship organization BizStarts, which recently opened an office at the Bucyrus campus with the goal of tailoring its services for underrepresented entrepreneurs.
St. Ann Center opened an intergenerational play garden this summer that is accessible to people of all ages and abilities and is installing 27 raised garden beds in a neighborhood long known as a food desert.
Lonergan said upwards of 90% of its staff are from the surrounding neighborhood. Before opening the Bucyrus campus, the center surveyed residents to ask them what services they would like to see provided.
“They said, ‘People start business, they come into our neighborhood, and they promise to hire us and they never do,’” Lonergan said. “And I said, ‘I’ll make a promise. We will hire you from within, when and where possible.’ … And we continue to keep that promise.”