Dr. Eric Denhoff (1913-1982)
Co-founder and one of Meeting Street’s earliest visionaries, Dr. Eric Denhoff was an accomplished pediatric neurologist and true leader in advancements for children with disabilities. Together with Margaret “Poggy” Langdon, Dr. Denhoff established Meeting Street to provide integrated educational, therapeutic, and developmental services to children with disabilities and developmental delays. Dr. Denhoff volunteered his services as Meeting Street’s medical director for 35 years, until his death in 1982.
Margaret “Poggy” Langdon (1904-2001)
Co-founder and educator, Poggy Langdon firmly believed in every child’s unlimited potential and was a leading force behind Meeting Street’s combination of educational and clinical services. She helped create our vision of an inclusive community where children of all abilities could discover their talents, develop their skills, and live life to the fullest.
For 41 years, Nancy D’Wolf dedicated herself to Meeting Street’s children and families. A firm believer in the philosophies and techniques first embraced by Poggy Langdon and Dr. Eric Denhoff, D’Wolf joined Meeting Street’s staff in 1952 as a physical therapist. Eight years later, she became the agency’s associate director and in 1966 was named executive director – a position she held until her retirement in 1993. During this time, she led our efforts to make Dr. Denhoff’s and Ms. Langdon’s vision a reality.
Agnes “Posa” Raposa (1947)
The Schwartz Center began in 1947 when a parent, Agnes “Posa” Raposa, found that there were no local services available for her son who was born with cerebral palsy. She dedicated her life to helping children with disabilities and was the driving force behind the foundation of the Cerebral Palsy Council of Greater New Bedford. The Council established the region’s first educational and treatment opportunities for children with cerebral palsy, and soon added therapies and a number of other programs.
Meeting Street was founded in 1946. Originally called Meeting Street School, it took its name from the primary school in which it was first housed on Meeting Street in Providence. Meeting Street School was established to provide comprehensive educational, therapeutic, and developmental services to children with disabilities and special needs. Our founders were Dr. Eric Denhoff, a pediatric neurologist, and Margaret “Poggy” Langdon Kelly, an educator and community activist.
To meet our growing space needs we relocated to the Butler Hospital campus in 1957. That same year, Meeting Street entered a collaborative long-range Child Development Study with Brown University, focusing on children with cerebral dysfunction. By 1969, a cohort of our professionals received national recognition for their development of the Meeting Street School Screening Test to evaluate kindergarten and first grade students for the early identification of learning disorders.
In our 30th year, the need for even more space prompted the move to the former Nicholson File Company in East Providence. The next year, we developed what was at the time an innovative “mainstreaming” program to prepare teachers, parents and others in the community to embrace children with acceptance and understanding. Today, we refer to this as inclusion and it is the cornerstone to our educational model.
In the 1970s we introduced a new team concept of psychological/developmental evaluations; this model is ultimately accepted as a best practice by the educational and medical community. Based on the success of our own Early Intervention program and our growing national reputation, Meeting Street was chosen as one of five institutions in the United States to receive a federal grant to develop a comprehensive service delivery model to meet the educational and developmental needs of young children with disabilities. Meeting Street’s Early Intervention program became a forerunner and model for the federal program established in the 1980s and is still practiced today across the country.
In December 2006, Meeting Street opened our custom-designed 80,000 square foot building on a nine acre campus in the heart of Providence. Our philosophy of inclusion was built into the design of this facility and the launch of our pioneering school, The Grace School was born with a vision of a fully inclusive elementary education program where all children of all abilities learn and grow together. Upon moving to our new campus Meeting Street was awarded the prestigious LEED environmental excellence approval and was the first school in the State to receive this honor.
Meeting Street has pioneered many firsts and continues to be a leader in the educational field. While often still called Meeting Street School, today we refer to our organization as Meeting Street so the name speaks to the many programs that we provide in addition to the school age services. In recognition of the steadfast dedication of our staff, Meeting Street was chosen as the Outstanding Philanthropic Service Organization of the Year (National Philanthropy Day 2000) by the Rhode Island Chapter of the National Society of Fund Raising Executives. This honor is awarded to an organization that has demonstrated a significant commitment to the community over and beyond what might normally be expected.
In 2010, the Providence Business News named Meeting Street a recipient of the Business Excellence Awards for “Excellence in a Nonprofit Organization.” This year also marked a focus to strategically growing our Early Childhood services. Later in 2010 Meeting Street became an Early Head Start (EHS) provider to support parents' efforts to fulfill their parental roles, and move families toward self-sufficiency. Building on our work in early childhood development, the following year Meeting Street created an early childhood pipeline of services, called The Olneyville Early Childhood Initiative that created a neighborhood model with a goal of harnessing early childhood services to ensure Providence’s children enter Kindergarten healthy and ready to learn. In 2012 Meeting Street was awarded a grant to allow us to be a provider of Healthy Families America, a national evidence-based maternal and child home visiting program that provides free, voluntary, confidential services. Soon after, Meeting Street played a lead role in the pilot phase of Providence Talks, a groundbreaking literacy development home visiting program established by the City of Providence and through the support of the Bloomberg Foundations.
In July 2014, Meeting Street took over leadership of The Schwartz Center in Dartmouth Massachusetts, illustrating the shared vision of becoming a national leader in child development, education, research and training. Opened in 1947 when a parent, Agnes “Posa” Raposa, discovered that there were no local services available for her son who was born with cerebral palsy. She dedicated her life to helping children with disabilities and together with other parents was the driving force behind the foundation of the Cerebral Palsy Council of Greater New Bedford. The Council established the region’s first educational and treatment opportunities for children with cerebral palsy, and soon added therapies and a number of other programs. As the reputation of these services spread, parents sought care for children with a variety of disabilities. In 1971 the Cerebral Palsy Clinic was renamed The Schwartz Center for Children in honor of Dr. Isaac H. Schwartz, the founding medical director of the Center, for dedicating nearly 25 years to children in the area.
With The Schwartz Center now a part of Meeting Street family, we move together as one organization educating and serving over 4,000 children and families annually throughout Rhode Island and Southeastern Massachusetts.
In 2015, Meeting Street was the recipient of two incredible opportunities to deepen our early childhood work with Universal Pre-Kindergarten and Women, Children and Infant (WIC). Wholly aligned with Meeting Street’s commitment to ensuring that all children begin school ready to learn, our Universal Pre-Kindergarten program will help close achievement gaps and widen opportunity for our state’s most vulnerable children. While the addition of WIC allows us to offer more services to our families through the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program and provide new opportunities to engage families across the capital city.
From the day we opened our hearts and doors in 1946, in a small brick building on Meeting Street in Providence, our tiny schoolhouse overflowed with possibility. Today, endless possibilities and opportunities are not just hoped for, they are expected as children of all ages and abilities and their families benefit from our seventy years of hands-on experience and innovation. Meeting Street’s groundbreaking approach can been seen through our core programs that work with children and families pre-birth through age 22.