On February 15th, 1942, Mary McLeod Bethune Early Child Development Nursery, Inc. , the first licensed child development center in the Corpus Christi area for minority children with its original site in a five room frame home located at 1403 Howard Street was established. Since then it has evolved to a diverse multi-ethnic child development program that provides affordable quality child care for working families and many times impoverished or shelter housed families, as well as families with parents in school or training programs. Bethune was made possible both by in-kind and financial contributions from many local community leaders , volunteers and residents such as the Florence Thornton Butt family (co-founder), the Howard E. Butt family (co-founder) (H.E.B. Grocery Store Chain), the reverend Joshua of Saint Matthews Missionary Baptist Church and C. T. Carlisle M.D. (local dentist) under the leadership of Mrs. Bernice Leonard. The nursery was approved by the Family and Children's Section of the Council of Community Agencies. It was granted a charter from the state and a license from the State Department of Public Welfare. Enrollment in 1942 began with 1 child and within 12 months increased to 32 with marked growth and expansion since inception. In 1943 the nursery became a participating agency of the Community Chess (United Way of the Coastal Bend) and in 1966 the State of Texas Department of Family and Protective Services recognized the excellence of service which led to contracting the nursery to provide services for low income eligible families via the Title XX Program.
The positive effect that Mary McLeod Early Child Development Nursery, Inc. has had on young children over the past 80 years is exemplified in the second and current Executive Director, Ms. Jimmie Marie Bibbs McCurn, who began her journey through Bethune's doors in 1952. Through Ms. McCurn' leadership, Bethune has become the epitome of diversity, fundamental early childhood education and core citizenry values unsurpassed amongst Corpus Christi Day Nurseries. Today, Bethune is a partner with countless city social service agencies such as the previous Del Mar College Special Population Program, Workforce Solutions, The Texas Department of Family and Regulatory Services, The Education Service Center Region II, Early Scholars Program Region II, Early Child Intervention, Homeless Issues Partnership, the United States Department of Agriculture -Child and Adult Care Food Program and many other entities serving low income residents.
Mary McLeod Bethune Early Child Development Nursery, Inc. continues to provide a safe learning environment for children while they develop physically, mentally, socially, emotionally and creatively with the goal of producing positive contributors for our great Nation. Positive contributors emulating the legacy of the late Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune and the late Bernice Leonard's character traits and values of personal courage, loyalty, respect, honor, integrity and selfless service continues.
Bernice Leonard was the first co-founder of Bethune.
Mary Elizabeth Holdsworth Butt, Florence Thornton Butt (mother of Howard E. Butt) and Ernestine Keys-Bibbs (mother of Jimmie Bibbs McCurn) were also co-founders.
Louise Chapman is the wife of the late John O. Chapman, Jr.; past Board of Director President at Mary McLeod Bethune.