Evelyn Collins (Miss Collins 1913–2000) was well known in NE Portland. She was raised on her family’s farm in Milton Freewater, Oregon. After working briefly as a missionary in Washington, D.C. youth camps, she moved to Portland, where she earned a teaching degree at Cascade Christian College (defunct since 1969, and not to be confused with Cascade College, the Portland branch of Oklahoma Christian University).
She taught briefly at a school near Salem and served as pastor of the Hoyt Street Methodist Church before finding her true vocation in affordable Christian daycare to help working mothers.
Together with her own mother, Miss Collins started a daycare center on Rodney Avenue, and within two years it outgrew its space. In 1956, she purchased the old Hibernian Hall at 128 NE Russell (today the Wonder Ballroom) and re-opened the daycare there the following year.
When her mother died, in 1970, Miss Collins gave the center a new name—the Grace Collins Memorial Daycare—and continued the ministry on her own, working 13-hour days with latchkey kids, meanwhile raising the money to keep the program going.
She received numerous community service awards over the years, including KOIN-TV’s Jefferson Award, and the Humanitarian Award from Delta Sigma Theta Sorority.
Miss Collins is widely remembered by people of all ages in NE Portland—by the parents who were able to work, knowing their children were in safe hands, by kids who attended the daycare and by teenagers whom she encouraged to use the building’s gymnasium—Bible stories and snacks included.
“She cared about some kids that others threw away,” says Ralph Davis, who remembers with gratitude the basketball court and Bible study she provided. “Being a white person, it was unheard of what she did in the Black community.”