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Published: Wednesday, 6/4/2008

East Toledo Family Center is ready to recall its history

BY MEREDITH BYERS
BLADE STAFF WRITER
From left, Bill Winkle, Joe Kochanski, Don Montague, Gene LaHote, Dave Alvarado, Jack Kohlhofer, Bill Romp, and Sue Bartus Ricci are planning the reunion.  I essentially grew up at the East Toledo Neighborhood House,  Mr. Montague said. It s now the Family Center. From left, Bill Winkle, Joe Kochanski, Don Montague, Gene LaHote, Dave Alvarado, Jack Kohlhofer, Bill Romp, and Sue Bartus Ricci are planning the reunion. I essentially grew up at the East Toledo Neighborhood House, Mr. Montague said. It s now the Family Center.
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Don Montague calls the East Toledo Family Center his home away from home.

Mr. Montague, who lost his mother when he was just 9, remembers going to the East Toledo Family Center, then known as the East Toledo Neighborhood House, almost every day after school while his father worked odd shifts as a stationary engineer in a refinery and his three brothers were overseas fighting in World War II.

I essentially grew up at the East Toledo Neighborhood House, Mr. Montague said.

The East Toledo Neighborhood House offered many activities, including basketball and other athletic activities, movie nights, a crafts room, Ping-Pong, and more. To look back on these fond memories, the East Toledo Family Center is planning a reunion to take place June 24.

The Neighborhood House was founded in 1901 by Reverend H.W. Hoover, a former pastor of the Memorial Baptist Church. Mr. Hoover and his wife provided services, including English language classes, cooking, and sewing lessons for the large immigrant population in the neighborhood. The Neighborhood House began as a tent on the property, before adjoining properties were added with the help of donations from several wealthy Toledo families.

The Neighborhood House was nicknamed the Hoover House in honor of its founder.

After World War II, many families turned to the center to help them return to family life. Warren Densmore, the director of the center, was adored by the children who attended the center, and he stayed there for 35 years.

Warren was an outstanding individual a guy who for the better part of my youth was my surrogate father, said Mr. Montague.

In 1971, the name was changed to the East Toledo Family Center. The Family House started having reunions in the 1990s. The reunions evolved into a gala, which many felt was too formal, and the reunions ceased for a few years.

We were saddened that we didn t do it anymore, said Mr. Montague.

We wanted a simple event. A get-together where everyone would bring back the memories of their childhood, he said.

The reunions were re-established last year, with over 150 people in attendance.

This year, the group plans to honor two of its past leaders, Rev. Hoover and Mr. Densmore. Rev. Hoover s daughter. Mary Ann, will speak about her father. Mr. Montague will give a speech about Mr. Densmore. The event will take place on June 24 at 6 p.m. at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Union Hall on Lime City Road in Rossford.

Dave Alvarado, a native of East Toledo who started going to the Neighborhood House when he was 5, said he loved going to the center after school.

As soon as school was over, there we were, waiting for the caretaker to open the gates and let us in, he said.

Mr. Alvarado also spent time at the Neighborhood House s Saturday Catechism classes, which were offered to Hispanic children who did not attend Catholic schools.

He said he appreciated the structure of the Neighborhood House.

We always had good supervision. One of my favorite things was piling into Mr. Densmore s car and driving to other communities to play basketball.

Mr. Alvarado said he remembered the Thursday night teen dances more than anything else.

Kim Partin, director of the East Toledo Family Center, said the reunions are enjoyable for all who attend.

The best of the reunion is to be able to listen and hear about the stories that the committee members shared with me or the guests. I hope that we re doing the same for the children attending the event. They ll look back in 50 years and remember all the great things about the neighborhood house. You can tell how much the Neighborhood House meant to them, she said.

Mr. Montague agrees.

It was a great place for me, and I ve always got fond memories of it. I m 73 years old, and I can remember it as if it were yesterday, he said.



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