History

Throughout its existence, one thing hasn’t changed about Mary Rigg Neighborhood Center: Our devotion to helping others. We believe service is key to helping those in need reach their personal goals.

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1911

Mary Rigg Neighborhood Center is originally established as Foreign House and Immigrant Aid Association to serve as a center of learning and recreation for foreign immigrants coming to Indianapolis to work in industrial and meatpacking plants. Kindergarten and youth programs begin, along with various activities to help parents and adults.

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1923

Center becomes charter member of Community Chest. (United Way of Central Indiana)

1924

Center renamed American Settlement House and Mary Rigg is hired as Director. The center’s motto is “Education is the key to progress.” Youth programs and family services are targeted to help families living in slum housing conditions in the heart of the heavy industrial and meat packing area of city.

Mary Rigg graduated Indiana University in 1915 and also studied at Columbia University in New York. Earning her degree in social work, Mary Rigg was one of Indiana’s first professional Social Workers.

1930

In the height of the Great Depression, the center adds vocational programs to help young adults and parents find employment; classes in food preparation, preservation, and nutrition are also started to help struggling families stretch their resources.

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1939-1950s

Center moves from downtown location to West Morris St., changes name to Southwest Social Center, and begins to focus on serving inner city residents living in one of the city’s areas of “great need,” the southwest side of the city and West Indianapolis area.

“Our major concerns are strengthening family life and the development of a better neighborhood.”—Mary Rigg, from letter written in 1953 to the President of the City Council.

“The sense of belonging is important…to the child. In fact, it is one of the fundamental needs.” –Mary Rigg

“Nothing is more basic to human welfare than the food people eat. The change from the rural to the urban society so often a part of the shifting age, brings one of the problems to the forefront: that of providing an adequate diet with an inadequate income.” –Mary Rigg

“It is our considered concern for the least one that under-lies all of our activities. We do not believe in providing services for those already situated but to bring to bear all resources upon the problems of the less fortunate. ‘In as much as ye have done it unto one of the least of these.'”—Mary Rigg

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1960/1971

Mary Rigg retires after 36 years of leadership. Center is renamed in Mary Rigg’s honor in 1971.

“This combination of programs is unique under one roof in Indianapolis. The center is a place where any neighborhood group can come to find solutions to any program.” -1961 newspaper article about Mary Rigg Neighborhood Center

“The model of the social worker on one side of the desk and the client on the other has to be abandoned for a model of social worker and client on the same side working together to solve basic conditions that create the need” -Policy Statement from MRNC staff, 1972

1960s-1990s

Society shifts attention and brings resources to help inner-city poverty with “War on Poverty”: Medicaid, Social Security, Medicare, Civil Rights, Head Start preschool, Food Stamps, School free and reduced lunch, Welfare Reform, Americans with Disabilities Act, Education reform to include access for all students to free public education.

1993

Computer and Career Training program is established to provide basic computer and career skills training for unemployed and underemployed neighbors.

1998

New modern building opened at 1920 W. Morris Street providing 44,000 square feet for Mary Rigg Neighborhood Center services along with partner Head Start providing preschool and adjoining William Penn affordable senior apartments.

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2000

George Washington Community High School is reopened in neighborhood and Mary Rigg Neighborhood Center helps coordinate 50 community partners.

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Today

Mary Rigg Neighborhood Center continues to be a place of help and hope for over 8,000 struggling individuals and families in southwest Indianapolis. An agency in “excellent” standing with United Way of Central Indiana, Mary Rigg Neighborhood Center has gained national recognition and funding for a number of programs including our efforts at George Washington Community High School and our employment training and money coaching programs.

We are known as a neighborhood center, and that’s appropriate, as we view ourselves as the heart of southwest Indianapolis – a place that radiates help and hope in all directions, and will continue to do so for many years to come.