Where We Began
Our history of early childhood education in St. Louis began in 1969. A group of churches on the South Side saw a need for income-based child care. To fill it, they founded Helping Hands Day Care Center, a nonprofit that would one day become Cornerstone. Just five years after our founding, we became a United Way of Greater St. Louis partner agency. In 1984, Helping Hand Day Care Center received accreditation, the first early childhood center to do so in St. Louis.
In 1993, after 24 years at work, we changed our name to Cornerstone Center for Early Learning. This change reflected our move into both early childhood education, as well as our new home in Shaw. Our first day in 3901 Russell Blvd. was in 1995, and we’ve been here ever since. As part of our growth, we started serving infants and toddlers, and we expanded our teaching staff. Soon, we were licensed to serve 116 children daily. After we bought the building next door, we grew our capacity to 162 children, which was a record high for us at the time.
In 2010, Cornerstone Center started on a path toward major growth. This plan included changes in fundraising, administration, education, and volunteerism, and so far, these efforts have been rewarding. We’ve received an accreditation from the Better Business Bureau and awards from Variety the Children’s Charity for our work in early childhood education in St. Louis. In this time, our academic program has switched to a research-based curriculum that better prepares our children for kindergarten. We’ve also grown our volunteer programs, and achieved new heights in fundraising. Finally, in 2019, we celebrated our 50th anniversary since the founding of the organization back in 1969. 2019 also marked the 25th anniversary of our major fundraising gala, Celebration for Children.
In 2020, we and the world shared a historic moment during the COVID-19 pandemic. But in the midst of such adversity, Cornerstone Center found a moment to renew and rebuild. With the purchase and renovation of our new building, our repainting and decluttering efforts, and the construction of our new gardens, Cornerstone is working to lay the foundations for our next 50 years. In this time, we hope to make changes which put our children in close touch with the natural environment so they may grow into better citizens of the world.