Published May 28, 2021


MELROSE—Melrose Day Care Center, one of Melrose’s oldest running full-time, non-profit childcare organization, is celebrating five decades this year. Last week, Melrose Day Care Center (MDCC) helped usher in their golden jubilee with an outdoor celebration attended by Melrose Mayor Paul Brodeur and State Representative Kate Lipper Garabedian. 

A SPECIAL guest made the days of young students at Melrose Day Care Center, which celebrated its 50th anniversary on May 14. (Jennifer Gentile photo)

Melrose Day Care Center and Preschool (MDCC) was founded in 1971 by a group of citizens from Melrose, including members of the First Congregational Church, who were instrumental in setting aside space in the new church building for a daycare center at their location at 121 West Foster Street in Melrose. For generations MDCC has provided quality care and education for children ages infant to kindergarten. They were the first child care center in Melrose to receive NAEYC accreditation and one of the first to receive Level 2 QRIS recognition. Long ago, key founder Amy Spollett had identified a need for childcare in Melrose and recruited Janet Runge to help her establish MDCC. Amy passed away in 2015 after serving on MDCC’s Board of Directors for 35 years. Those leading the organization now include co-directors Janet Dotolo, who began at MDCC in 1992, and Amanda Riccardi, who joined MDCC in in 2002. 

A fun (and masked up) outdoor party was held on May 14 and attended by local dignitaries, current families and students and the organization’s board of directors. Lipper Garabedian presented Melrose Day Care with an official Citation from the MA House of Representatives recognizing their 50 years of service while Mayor Brodeur officially declared May 14 “Melrose Day Care Center Day.”

MAYOR PAUL Brodeur declared May 14 “Melrose Day Care Center Day” in honor of their 50th anniversary which was celebrated last week. (Jennifer Gentile photo)

Director Janet Dotolo helped lead the festivities, which featured music, food, a bubble machine and a visit by Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse. She spoke of the amazing support offered by families and alumni. “We have had such an outpouring of love and congratulations since our celebration, including many former staff and families who wished they could have celebrated with us but couldn’t because of COVID,” she says. 

Melrose Day Care Center is known for their family atmosphere and returning alumni who often become staff members. They even have former students who have enrolled their own children into the school. 

Reflecting on how the center has changed over the year, Amanda Riccardi noted how important it is to evolve with the times. “MDCC has always changed to adapt to what the community needs,” she says. She notes that there has been a significant change in the expectation and requirements for the field. The Office of Childcare Services (OCCS) became the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC).

In 1971, MDCC opened with one classroom. It now has two infant rooms, three toddler rooms and three preschool rooms. Thousands of Melrose children have been cared for and educated over generations, and in that time, MDCC has adapted through increased preschool curriculum requirements, the adoption of MA Common Core curriculum frameworks for pre-K and the MA Early Learning Guidelines for Infants and Toddlers. It’s an ever changing process for the center.

“We’ve journeyed through multiple NAEYC re-accreditations and embarked on QRIS,” says co-director Amanda Riccardi. “There has also been an increase in expectations for early childhood educators. Those who were qualified as teachers by EEC by taking a college-level Child Growth and Development course, are now being encouraged to seek degrees in early childhood education.”

One advantage is the Career Pathways Grant that provides free courses at colleges for those working in EEC licensed programs. MDCC has had many staff participate and earn degrees through this grant. Says Riccardi. “I was part of the first cohort of graduates from Gordon College to earn a masters degree through this grant.”

So, what sets MDC apart from other centers in Melrose?

“Our staff are amazing,” says Dotolo. “In a field known for having high-turnover, we’re pretty proud of the longevity of some of our staff. We have teachers and assistants who were students at MDCC. It says something when people want to keep coming back.”

It takes a village to help a center like Melrose Day Care reach such a milestone, and Dotolo credits some key folks in getting there. “The current and past staff members and Board of Directors of MDCC  have been the heart and soul of this organization since 1971. Caroline Yoder, former MDCC Director, helped MDCC become NAEYC accredited and begin QRIS. She showed us how to turn a small daycare into a thriving childcare program.” She also credits Kathy Gallo, Director of Education & Care Partnership at NorthShore Community College and consultants Marilyn Favreau and Megg Thompson. And of course the MDCC families current and past. “You’re our purpose,” says Dotolo. “Thank you for your support and the trust you’ve put in us.” 

It’s been a challenging year for the institution in light of COVID-19, but based on the outpouring of families who enjoyed the celebration, not even a pandemic could stop the community support. Melrose Day Care briefly closed in March when all of Massachusetts did, and reopened last July. “We’ve learned to focus on the needs of the staff, children, and families,” says Riccardi. In fact, COVID-19 has forced the suspension of their popular food program and their classrooms are still operating at reduced hours. 

In fact, it was those things that helped Melrose Day Care Center stand out among other early childhood centers in the area. Yet, the quality still shines through. “Those were a few things that set us apart,” says Dotolo. “But as one of the teachers recent said, ‘They have us!’.” 

Lucky them. Here’s to another 50 years.