Evelyn Davis: A Life-Changer

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Evelyn K. Davis with the childrenEvelyn Davis was a woman with the common touch. She unmistakably was Des Moines' queen mother devoted to nurturing children and strengthening families in Des Moines and Central Iowa.

The eldest of five children, she was originally born Kay Evelyn Scott and grew up in Hiteman, Iowa, a small, rural southern Iowa town. She was the daughter of a coal miner father Lewis (Bud) Scott and a deeply religious mother Nettie Finks Scott, who always had a meal for those needing assistance.

Evelyn was married at age 16. She divorced five years later. She then moved with her mother and two children, Bobby and Donna, to Des Moines, Iowa, changed her name to Evelyn K. and went to work in several low-paying jobs to try to make ends meet. It was here in Des Moines that she met a man, Lawrence Davis, whom she married and built her life and family. During their 50 years together their family expanded by four more children - Larry, Jimmy, Eddie and Sherrie.

While their family grew, Evelyn, like her mother, also was quite aware of the struggles of her neighbors and families in the community. It was here that she shaped her vision for a better future for others in the area.

In the 1960s when an increasing number of women began working outside their homes, she looked around her neighborhood and saw less-privileged families struggling to work and find suitable day care for their children. She wanted them to have the same work and day care options as middle-class families, and quickly worked to open her day care center - called Tiny Tots - in the heart of the city to meet this demand. It was Iowa's first day care center for at-risk children and set the stage for her work as an early childhood educator and champion leader for the poor. She developed the state's first day care certification program with Iowa State University and opened a free medical clinic located at the House of Mercy.

For more than 30 years she faithfully nurtured the needs of the whole family while caring for children whose parents were working to support their families. From 1966 to 1989, Evelyn directed the child care center that was seen as a lighthouse of hope for many in the community, while setting the standard for day care services in Iowa. She also connected with city and political leaders to make a difference across the city. Through her community leadership and advocacy for families, she worked tirelessly to see that the less-privileged received needed family support services so they could access jobs and education. She planted the seeds of hope.

Now in the Evelyn K. Davis Center for Working Families, Evelyn's inspiration is fostering educational programs, job training and the prospects for a brighter future. The values of hard work and perseverance that Evelyn taught on the streets of Des Moines and in the classrooms of the Tiny Tots center, now are coming alive just blocks away in the Evelyn K. Davis Center for Working Families.

Evelyn K. Davis - Des Moines' woman of action; the city's woman with a dream.