In 1973, Father Bill Hutchison and several local St. Louis residents founded Northside Community Center in the historic Ville neighborhood. They wanted to establish a neighborhood senior center to address the pressing needs of local seniors living in poverty. The immediate focus was to address hunger, malnutrition and isolation, which often led to the premature institutionalization of the elderly.
Father Bill began his mission to serve the elderly by providing daily lunchtime meal delivery to the homes of the disabled. He also secured the use of building space for neighbor seniors to gather daily for a nutritious lunch, recreation and social activities. These activities were later formalized as our food and nutrition programs, Meals on Wheels and Congregate Meals, and were funded through a small grant for senior citizens from the Mayor’s office.
Northside Youth And Senior Service Center, Inc.
In 2012, the Northside Community Center, Inc. formally changed its name to Northside Youth and Senior Service Center, Inc. With the separation of the housing program and a sharper focus on youth and senior programming, the name change gave a clearer description of what we do and the people we serve.
Growing Our Programs
The goal has always been to support the basic needs of the St. Louis community. As those needs have changed over the years, we’ve allocated additional resources and established programs to meet the changing needs.
In 1974, youth programs were established at the center. During the years that followed, there was an increase in community needs and new issues began to emerge, including child care, affordable housing and supervised programs for summer and after school.
With funding provided by the Saint Louis Area Agency on Aging, our senior activities expanded to include transportation, health and fitness programs to support fuller, more active lives for St. Louis seniors. Recently, we’ve also partnered with St. Louis University School of Medicine students to prevent falls and adverse side effects caused by mixing medications from different providers.
In addition to our youth programs, supplemental services such as assistance with completing tax rebate forms (Circuit Breakers), pantry referrals, utility assistance, daycare, free groceries and utility assistance were added to support families in our community. Our programs began reaching residents throughout the St. Louis area.
In 1977, the Center’s Housing Program began renovating several homes and apartment buildings in the neighborhood. Over the next 23 years, the Housing Program completed the rehabilitation of 93 affordable rental units, which were leased to low-income community residents.
In 2003, the Housing Program separated from the Center to become its own not-for-profit corporation, Northside Community Housing, and turned its focus to building single-family subdivisions in the Greater Ville neighborhood.
By 2004, the number of youth served by the Center each year climbed to over 120 youths from ages 5-18. That year, the focus of our youth programs also shifted to school-based programming. We established partnerships to provide programming in St. Louis Public Schools, including Williams CEC, Turner Middle, Beaumont, Sumner and Northwest Academy.
This change was in response to a need for mental health services to support academic achievement among students with behavioral or learning disabilities. Our community partners included the Mental Health Board, ARCHS, United 4 Children and the St. Louis Public Schools.
Supporting the Community Through COVID-19
During the pandemic, we adjusted and expanded our programs to support seniors, youth and families in need. We delivered meals, personal protective equipment (PPE) and at-home activities to seniors and families sheltering in place. To support the closure of schools and virtual learning, we moved our after school programming online, provided grab and go snacks for kids who stopped by the Center, and provided laptops, tablets and Internet service for virtual learning.
Our Building’s History
We’d be remiss not to offer a peek into the history of the building that our Center calls home.
Northside Community Center was originally housed in the basement of the former St. Matthew’s School at 4102 Maffitt Avenue in North St. Louis City. In 1974, the Center was incorporated and moved its home offices just a few meters away to its current location at 4120 Maffitt Avenue, previously the convent of St. Matthew School.
With a larger space, we got to work on renovations, all of which were made possible through generous donations from the McDonnell Douglas Employees Charity Fund, the Webb Foundation, the Monsanto Fund, the Roblee Foundation, the U.S. Bishops Campaign for Human Development, and the St. Matthew Jesuit Community gift.
We’ve had a long and rich history working with members of the St. Louis community. We’re proud to serve this city and its seniors, youth and families!