‘Straight Outta Bethlehem’

Joy Hooper-Carter a former student at Bethlehem Community Child Development Center, talks to students on Bethlehem Community Day last week.

‘Straight Outta Bethlehem’
April 27
07:45 2017

Photo by Tevin Stinson

Child Development Center celebrates 90 years of service



Before Krispy Kreme opened its doors in 1937, even before the Reynolds Building was added to the downtown skyline in 1929, there was Bethlehem Community Child Development Center.

In September, the early childhood center will celebrate its 90th anniversary. Mayor Allen Joines got the celebration started early last week when he hand delivered a proclamation declaring April 21 “Bethlehem Community Day,” to students and staff at the center, now located at 520 Cleveland Ave.

“It’s my pleasure to be here with you today to celebrate this birthday,” Joines told the students before reading the proclamation.

Since 1927, Bethlehem Community Development Center has served the community through its early childhood education and after school programs. To serve the vital need for early childhood education for low-income families, tuition is based on income. Although the physical building has changed a few times over the years, the mission to serve those in need has remained the same. Ninety years after the center first opened its doors, Bethlehem is still one of the few local centers that offers tuition on a sliding scale.

According to Bethlehem alum Michael Mason, the idea for the 90-year celebration started shortly after the film “Straight Outta Compton” was released. Moore said he posted a meme on social media that said “Straight Outta Bethlehem,” and the rest is history.

“That’s how the idea began. I posted it on Facebook and I started to hear from Bethlehem alumni from all parts of the country,” laughed Moore. “I had no idea it would turn into all this.”

During the celebration, students who attended the center 50 to 60 years ago stopped by to express their gratitude for the positive start that the Bethlehem Center provided for them as children.

Joy Hooper-Carter, the first women to serve as stage manager for the famous Apollo Theatre and production assistant for the hit television show “Showtime at the Apollo,” said she learned a lot of lessons at Bethlehem that didn’t have anything to do with reading and writing.

“60 years later, I’m still meeting people who have gone to Bethlehem Center. A lot of real cool people came through here. We have people who are actors, lawyers, doctors, business owners and it started right here at Bethlehem Center,” Hooper-Carter said.

Recently, Isaac “Ike” Howard said that during a visit to the center while looking for his graduation photo on the wall, he mistook his son’s photo for his own. He said Bethlehem has been a proud tradition for his family and thousands of others in the community.

He said, “When it comes to early childhood development, I think Bethlehem is Number One.”

Today, Bethlehem serves children from 3 months old to 4 years old. There are also before and after school programs for children ages 5 through 12, and a summer enrichment program.

After receiving the proclamation from Mayor Joines, Executive Director Debra Forest said she was honored to be a part of the Bethlehem tradition.

“We have Bethlehem Community Day. It doesn’t get much better than that,” she said.

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Tevin Stinson

Tevin Stinson

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