Decades ago, a band of determined educators teamed with parents to create Fun Time Nursery in the heart of Naples. Among this group were Alma and Herbert Cambridge and Ola Mae Mack. Together they dreamed and worked towards the day when children from their neighborhood could be nurtured and educated close to home.
“It just seemed natural to me that we had to provide for and teach our young children,” recalled Mrs. Cambridge. “At the time, there was no school for little children during the day, and the options for child care for children of color were nonexistent. We opened the doors to 12 students whose parents paid a very minimal tuition to get Fun Time started. Soon after, the United Fund began to help us, and then others in the community contributed.”
The Fun Time Nursery first opened its doors in 1961 as a small classroom within the Old Carver School under the direction of Mrs. Cambridge. The school was 100% African American until 1965, when Mrs. Pat Schultheis joined as a teacher and placed her son, Buddy, in Fun Time. Our easy relationship with integration began.
In 1967, Novella Williams joined the staff and remained until 1998, seeing Fun Time through its formative years as a center for child activities in the River Park neighborhood and as an education site for children from downtown. Mother Perry also worked at Fun Time as a cook and then Director.
Throughout its history, the early childhood development center focused on learning through a research-based, creative curriculum and worked to meet the needs of students and their parents, setting hours of operation around their work schedules. In 1975, the hours of operation were set at 6:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
In 2009, Fun Time moved from a 4,200-square-foot, 36-year-old trailer to its current 8,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility featuring six classrooms, a multipurpose room for parent meetings and staff events, the Founders’ Room, offices, a kitchen, two playgrounds and a garden.
The current building, with its safety, security and increased potential for delivery of educational opportunities, represents a vast improvement for students, teachers and administrators.
Ensuring the success of Fun Time is ensuring the success of future generations and our community.