Interview with Nonnie Hood
“We had freedom and fun. We learned by doing."
— Nonnie Hood
The PRC's namesake and founder, Johanna Hood (aka Nonnie Hood) and her husband Fred welcomed the PRC’s Executive Director Shena Rossettie to their Massachusetts home in February 2019.
Nonnie had turned 94 the week before, and her home was full of fresh flowers from her birthday party. In true PRC style, she served delicious coffee to accompany her encouraging words, and was full of curiosity about her guests and the center.
While it has been many years since she lived in Corning, Nonnie continues to support the organization she helped found in the late ‘80s.
After their visit, Shena sent Nonnie some “interview questions” so that everyone could learn more about Nonnie and her relationship to the PRC. You can read Nonnie's responses below.
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Since we are about helping families with young children, can you start with when you were a little girl and the family you were born into? And then tell us about your own family – husband, children and grandchildren?
As the youngest of five children, I grew up in a busy and adventuresome household in New Bedford, MA.
My father was a doctor who made house calls day and night. There was seldom a peaceful meal for him. However, he always made time for each one of us. He taught us many survival skills from changing a flat tire, sailing a boat, and enjoying the wonders of the outdoors.
We were taught that if you didn’t feel well to walk around the block. If that didn’t do it -walk around two blocks!
No matter the weather, we walked to school, rode our bikes, played baseball in any available lot, and roller skated with knee pads in case of trouble. Our job was to show up in time for dinner - clean and neat.
We had freedom and fun. We learned by doing.
How did you come to Corning, and what was it like for your family living here? What brought you to where you live today?
Fred and I were married in 1949. While Fred was in business school, I taught Pre-K at the Buckingham School in Cambridge.
Corning Glass Works offered Fred a job and off we went with our new baby to live in the Crystal Garden apartments across the street from the Y.M.C.A.
We built a house on Spencer Hill where we raised 5 children. This area gave us the fun and freedom we had known as kids - learning by doing and showing up for supper - hopefully in one piece!
We moved to South Dartmouth, MA 32 years ago to discover you can “go home again” but don’t expect it to be just the same.
Near the sea, we built a house to be enjoyed by 9 grandchildren. They found fun and freedom and adventure. They are now growing up into interesting adults.
We are thankful every day.
Can you tell us a little bit about how the original PRC was “born”? How long were you involved there, and how?
When our youngest was 8, I went to work for Head Start, a program sponsored by the Corning-Painted Post Area School District. Over the years, the program expanded and soon included state sponsored Pre-K.
Head Start was based on the Bank Street Model - “Learning by Doing.” And so in life we do.
The Head Start program had four components: Education, Parent Involvement, Social Services, and Health and Nutrition.
When the elementary schools observed the benefits of dealing with the whole family they replicated these four components.
A need was evident that parents of young children appreciated guidance and support, especially low income families and those with handicapping conditions.
A grant was submitted to the NY State Education Department to create a parent resource center. We wrote the grant with Bill Johnson (a grant writer), Arthur Stilwell (a guidance counselor with the school district and director of Head Start) and the blessings of the school district. We received one out of ten grants awarded that year and we celebrated.
The first location was on the second floor of the Corning-Painted Post Administration building on Charles Street in Painted Post. Not very inviting!
Soon it was located at the Frank Pierce School in Coopers Plains.
Head Start and Early Intervention classrooms were nearby so it became a pleasant and popular place to meet and greet.
Books and toys were loaned to families. Helpful information about health, nutrition, and appropriate activities were made available.
In 2000, the PRC was moved to the (Corning) library building.
At first, the funding for the center was by the school district, NYS and the Corning Glass Works Foundation. The funding now is much broader based and reflects the incredible resource and success you have provided to the Corning community.
How did the current Nonnie Hood PRC get its name?
Dr. George Hanity, the superintendent of the Corning-Painted Post schools named the PRC in honor of Nonnie Hood.
The PRC’s mission is to help families with young children play, learn and connect with one another in a welcoming & encouraging environment.
So, we thought it’d be fun to ask Nonnie a few “PRC mission” questions…
What were your favorite games as a child?
Card games, jacks, Monopoly, hopscotch, jump roping, flashlight tag, relieve O, skating, skiing, and sailing.
Who encouraged you in a special way in your life?
Family, friends, camp, school.
What do you love to learn about?
For 30 years I have had a garden design business - once again - “learning by doing.”