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Dorothea's House to Hold 90th Anniversary Celebration

Candace Braun

Dorothea's House, an Italian-American cultural organization, will commemorate its 90th anniversary with a celebration on Sunday, October 3, from 2 to 5 p.m.

Located on John Street, Dorothea's House opened in 1914 to continue the work that was started by Dorothea Van Dyke McLane, a volunteer social worker who ministered to the needs of newly-arriving immigrants to Princeton.

The settlement house was founded by Dorothea's husband, Guy Richards McLane, and her father, Henry Van Dyke, a professor of English literature at Princeton University and a writer of theology, criticism, fiction, and poetry. The two men founded the organization shortly after Dorothea's death during childbirth, at age 23.

Dorothea's House not only offered social and educational opportunities for Princeton's poor, immigrant, Italian families, but also gave aid with housing and development. Approximately 300 Italian immigrants were present at the opening ceremony of the organization.

Its mission evolved to the role of serving the community at large over the years. Dorothea's House sponsors many educational and cultural programs today, as well as allowing other non-profit organizations to use the building.

Since 1963, Dorothea's House has provided more than 400 scholarships to college-bound students graduating from Princeton High School. Anthony Cifelli, one of the earliest scholarship recipients, is now the president of the organization's board of trustees.

"The Dorothea's House scholarship meant a great deal to me in allowing me to pursue my education," said Mr. Cifelli. "With the ever-increasing high cost of colleges, it is even more relevant to students today."

Programs Offered

Also known as "Casa di Cultura," Dorothea's House offers monthly programs free of charge on topics of Italian interest, including Italian literature and opera, wine tastings, musical performances, art exhibitions, author talks, and slide presentations featuring the art, architecture, and landscape of Italy. The audience is as diverse as the programs, with regular visitors such as Nobel-prize winner John Nash.

The organization's annual "polenta festa" is anticipated each year by devotees of the Northern Italian staple, and typically draws a large crowd of participants toting their own favorite polenta dish to share.

Dorothea's House has also served as a resource for students wishing to study the Italian language. Classes for children were initiated in 1991, and expanded afterwards to include adults who have an interest in learning the language.

"The Saturday and Wednesday morning classes have become a weekly institution that people really look forward to," said Gilda McCauley, a board member who organizes the classes.

This Sunday's celebration, which is open to the public free of charge, will include a brief ceremony followed by a musical program by the Bloomfield Mandolin Orchestra. A reception, catered by Mediterra, will follow, along with a prize drawing.

For more information, visit www.dorotheashouse.org.

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