Supporters from throughout Joyce’s history joined us for the Founders & Friends Luncheon, the capstone event to our 50th Anniversary celebrations that honored the early leaders, visionaries, and steadfast supporters of Joyce’s 50-year history of success. We were joined by members of the family of Ruth Marks, our original visionary and founder who has since passed away, as well as many representatives from the organizations who supported Joyce throughout its history — whether in its early days in the 1960s, during its transition to a bilingual program in the 1990s, or during its transformation into a non-profit in the 2000s.
Members of the Marks family shared about Ruth’s journey that led her to create Joyce Nursery School, as it was known in the 1960s. After completing nursing school, Ruth started as a school nurse, eventually becoming a city and then a county nurse. She moved from Massachusetts to Wisconsin with her husband Douglas, who was eventually appointed Pastor to Joyce United Methodist Church in Minneapolis. After starting several outreach programs for the changing church neighborhood, Ruth realized that the relationships she built while opening the before- and after-school daycare program could help her create a bigger impact.. She reached out to the other Methodist churches and women’s groups, and with their support founded Joyce Nursery School.. “From those beginnings came the wonderful preschool you are celebrating today,” said Ruth Ann, granddaughter Ruth Marks. “She would be extremely proud to know that this program has endured, and to see what her original dream has become.”
In addition to remarks from the Marks family, one of Joyce’s original teachers also shared memories of the early days. Muriel Erickson was a volunteer aide during the first year of Joyce Nursery School, and was hired on as a teacher in the second year. “I remember Ruth’s story about going door to door to find out which children in the neighborhood would benefit from a preschool,” said Muriel. “She was untiring in her efforts to bring a good life to those children.”
Muriel also recalled — somewhat less fondly, but with a laugh — scrubbing floors, painting, papering, and endless cleaning in the Joyce Church basement, where the preschool classes were held. “I remember being on hands and knees scouring the cement floor in the church basement bathrooms to get them ready for the kids,” she said. Dirty work, but she was hooked, she remembers, after Ruth Marks came to her church and presented about the school. “We owe a lot to Ruth. If she can know what’s going on up there in heaven, she’ll be smiling I’m sure at what’s going on here.”
Board Chair Marc Valencia also touched on Joyce’s major milestones since its inception, such as its switch to a bilingual curriculum about 20 years ago, its launch of multidimensional parent programming 10 years ago, and expansions within the last 5 years. “Our communities have evolved: the makeup of our neighborhoods, the socioeconomic situation of folks, and the diversity of locations where families come from,” Marc said. “We have evolved since 50 years ago, but the noble footprint that Ruth Marks set is something that we are trying to follow in every single way.”
With deep gratitude, Joyce presented commemorative children’s artwork made by the 50th graduating class to representatives from each of the founding churches present, as well as to the Marks family and current host church Park Avenue.
Thanks to all those who joined us for this special luncheon, and took the opportunity to renew their connection with the children and families at our program. We always welcome community volunteers — they ensure Joyce has a vibrant relationship with our neighbors, families, donors, and supporters. We are incredibly grateful for all the support we have received over the last 50 years.