About Us

Mission

Fruit & Flower provides a developmentally appropriate environment for learning while cultivating a supportive community for families.

History

In 1885, a group of teen-aged girls formed an organization to make a charitable contribution to their community in Portland. They delivered baskets of fruit and bouquets of flowers to their less fortunate neighbors and to patients at Good Samaritan and St. Vincent Hospitals, and called themselves “The Children’s Flower Mission”.

As they grew older, those far-thinking young women became aware of the pressing need for child care on the part of single working mothers. They wanted to ensure that the children would not be neglected, but instead cared for, kept clean, and fed nourishing meals and snacks. In 1906, they opened Oregon’s first child care program, Fruit and Flower Day Nursery of Portland. They hired nurses and charged ten cents per day to care for children from infancy to age seven. The demand was surprisingly high. Fruit & Flower was one of the founding Community Chest agencies in Portland, and built a new home during the Roaring 20s to alleviate overcrowded conditions. In 1928, Fruit & Flower moved into 415 West Park, the first building west of the Mississippi designed for childcare. Fruit & Flower took over management of another nursery during the 1940s, complied with government standards and hired trained teachers.

Fruit & Flower has grown to become one of the more respected child care programs in the state and has maintained its focus on providing assistance to families in need. A scholarship program provides much needed support and assistance to families with major challenges in their lives such as single-parenting, completing college studies, and re-entering the workplace.

Fruit & Flower provides an exemplary environment where children can flourish. We have programs for infants through kindergarten. In addition to our developmentally appropriate program, we provide nutritious breakfasts, lunches and snacks prepared on-site. We also provide families with the opportunity to participate in a variety of child centered activities. Fruit & Flower provides a play-based childcare program that supports creative thinking, respect for diversity and social awareness in each child. We embrace our role in providing a nurturing setting and measure our success in the growth and development of children and families. We enable parents to complete their professional and educational goals by nurturing their children with a stimulating early-care experience.

We have come a long way since the small wood-framed house in downtown Portland. We moved to our current site at NW 24th Avenue and Irving Street in the early 1970s. Our high quality program has become a tradition of excellence to working families in the Portland area. We continue to provide high quality child care for children of families who are employed or in school, and to advocate on behalf of the well-being of children.

More than 100 years later, the traditions of excellence at Fruit & Flower continue. We hire bright, professional, loving teachers, and implement best practices in early childhood education. Decades of scholarship assistance have built up endowed funds that are dedicated to providing support and assistance to families in need, helping single parent families to complete training and education and strengthen their earning power. We invest in sustainable practices and are certified eco-friendly by the Oregon Environmental Council. We are intent to reduce our footprint on the planet and become more environmentally efficient.

That imagination that sparked Fruit & Flower more than a century ago continues to challenge and shape us today. Thanks to the founders: Helen Burrell, Dorthea Eliot, Ellen Eliot, Anna Farrell, Ida Farrell, Antoinette Montgomery, Clara Teal and Frances Warren. If you know any of their descendants, please contact receptionist@fruitandflower.org. And if you want to celebrate and further their legacy, we invite you to join us in supporting Fruit & Flower.

Fruit & Flower Timeline

Pre- 1885
When Oregon is given statehood in 1859, barely 50,000 Americans live in the state. With the completion of the transcontinental railroad, Portland’s population begins to grow dramatically.
1885
On April 29th, eight young girls organize the Children’s Flower Mission to deliver baskets of fruit and flowers to hospital patients and shut-ins. Within months, the girls begin work on several other community needs and provided financial resources to the needy. The founders are:

  • Helen Burrel
  • Dorthea Eliot
  • Ellen Eliot
  • Anna Farrell
  • Ida Farrell
  • Antoinette Montgomery
  • Clara Teal
  • Frances Warren
1888
Children’s Flower Mission disbands having delivered an estimated 4,143 bouquets of flowers over its 3-year existence.
1893
The Portland Flower Mission is reorganized by the original members of the Children’s Flower Mission. The Mission’s first president is Clara Teal. In addition to delivering flowers, the organization now offers clothing, food, furniture, linens, and other items to local charitable organizations and individuals in need. Life experience, maturity, and knowledge of current philanthropic practices push the members to develop activities corresponding to the community’s needs. The mission establishes and maintains contact with similar organizations as far away as New York City.
1901
The Portland Flower Mission drafts its first constitution.
1905
The Portland Flower Mission members starts to discuss plans to open a day nursery to help support working mothers.
1906
On April 16, the Flower Mission Day Nursery quietly opens at 13 Fifth Street. Utility companies have donated telephone and electrical services. Fees charged range from 10 cents for a mother who is the sole wage earner, to twenty-five cents when the father also works.
1911
The Portland Flower Mission incorporates under the name Portland Fruit and Flower Mission with an estimated property value of $100. The nursery is renamed Portland Fruit and Flower Day Nursery.
1912
The mission opens a branch nursery on the East side.
1915
Supporting two nurseries prove to be a financial burden. The East-side nursery is closed.
1919
Mrs. Elizabeth Jehu is hired as superintendent for the Fruit and Flower Day Nursery, and health and safety is stressed. The Portland Fruit and Flower Mission becomes one of the founding members of Community Chest. An advisory board of five Portland businessmen is elected.
1921
A baby is abandoned on the doorstep of the Fruit and Flower Day Nursery, and is adopted four months later by an Oregon family. Discussions to build or purchase a permanent nursery building begin.
1924
Fruit and Flower Day Nursery purchases property at 12th Avenue and Market Street for new nursery at a cost of $15,500. Construction of the new nursery begins. Multnomah County declares the property tax-exempt.
1928
The permanent Fruit and Flower Day Nursery is completed. A bequest of $4,626 is made to the nursery.
1933
The first annual operetta is given by the children for the public—and these performances continue throughout the 1930s. Many more bequests are made to the nursery, thus furthering the services of the Portland Fruit and Flower Mission; amounts of $2,000, $2,000, $2,300 and $5,000 are made.
1937
Two more sizable bequests are made in amounts of $5,000 and $10,000. A permanent endowment fund is established.
1942
With World War II, the nursery changes its fee to a sliding scale based on family income. Fruit & Flower becomes deeply involved in the Kaiser Child Service Centers, serving  up to 700 children  daily in 1944. Fruit & Flower reduces their request to Community Chest by $1,500 to aid WWII expenses.
1948
The organization is officially changed from the “Fruit and Flower Mission” to “Fruit and Flower Day Nursery” as child care becomes the primary focus.
1955
United Fund allocates an additional $1,000 if a part-time social worker is hired. The Fruit and Flower Day Nursery is no longer open on Saturdays.
1959
First men are elected to the Fruit & Flower Board of Directors.
1962
Marie Brady Kennan leaves after nearly 17 years as the Fruit & Flower Executive Director. In her final report to the board of directors, she asks “Who will help us?” responding to low salaries in the child care field.
1965
In close cooperation with the Jewish Community Center, the Fruit and Flower Day Nursery receives a grant from the Community Action Program to provide family services and training to 10 disadvantaged families.
1970
When Portland State University expands, Fruit & Flower is asked to relocate. A search begins for a new home. The old building on 12th Avenue and Market Street is now known as the Helen Gordon Child Development Center and serves the PSU Graduate School of Education.
1973
Fruit & Flower moves to its new facility at 24th Avenue and Irving Street in Northwest Portland. The purchase of the new building is made possible through the sale of the old property, and from contributions from individuals, foundations and corporations. Federal funds for child care are cut in favor of revenue sharing.
1977
Governor Tom McCall dedicates the new Infant and Toddler Program, allowing the admission of children as young as six weeks. Within a few months, the new program becomes a model for other centers, attracting visitors from throughout the U.S. and abroad.
1979
Fruit & Flower: The History of Oregon’s First Day Care Center” by Danielle Hopkins is published and receives favorable reviews.
1983
Fruit  & Flower Child Care Center opens the new Infant Center, which is cited by the Oregonian newspaper as “state-of-the-art”. Senator Mark O. Hatfield dedicates the facility, saying that infant care is “perhaps the greatest unmet need in Portland”.
1985
Fruit & Flower celebrates its 100th birthday. Numerous events are held in April, including the first-ever Alumni Homecoming and a recognition banquet. Portland Mayor Bud Clark, himself a former Fruit & Flower student, proclaims “Fruit & Flower Day” in Portland. Multnomah County Executive proclaims “Fruit & Flower Week”, April 28- May 4. And Oregon Governor Atiyeh deems the same week as “Quality Child Care Week” in honor of the centennial. On Monday, April 29th, students from Fruit & Flower visit a local nursing home to deliver baskets of fruit and flowers, just as the founders did 100 years earlier. The permanent endowment fund reaches $350,000.
1993
Governor Barbara Roberts visits her grandchildren at Fruit & Flower.
1998
The first Fruit & Flower fundraiser and auction is held in spring to raise funds for the center.
2003
Lead teachers Sherry Hobbs and Kathy Duncan each celebrate 20 years at the center.
2005
Caralee Longwood—pictured here on her 78th birthday—leaves a generous bequest of $350,000 in her estate to Fruit & Flower. Caralee’s mother and grandmother both served on the Fruit & Flower Day Nursery Board of Directors.
2006
Strategic planning leads to a campaign for capital improvements, including upgrades in playgrounds, classrooms and facilities.
2008
“Fruit & Flower: Raising Portland” appears as the featured article in the Life section of the Sunday Oregonian on May 11th.
2010
Playground upgrades are complete thanks to hundreds of parent and community volunteers.
2012
The Kathy Raifsnyder Endowed Scholarship Fund is established in honor of a beloved Fruit & Flower teacher who worked at the center for 19 years and passed away in in February of this year.