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Benefactor to needy, mother to thousands

Doris Algood ran a day care center for three decades, rented rooms to the downtrodden and raised countless pets.

© St. Petersburg Times
published December 6, 2002


HYDE PARK -- In 1962, Doris Algood barely had enough money to raise her four boys. By 1992, she had raised thousands of Hyde Park children in her own day care center.

Ms. Algood, who for three decades cooked hot breakfasts and kissed skinned knees for a generation of Hyde Park youngsters, died Tuesday (Nov. 26, 2002) at home. She was 85.

"Every time you'd go out there, she'd have one or two babies hanging off of her," said her son, Patrick Algood. "She never missed a day of work, no matter if she was sick."

Credit Ms. Algood's small-town upbringing for her generosity and hard-working spirit.

"It was nothing but a dirt road with a big cattle farm," Patrick said of his mother's hometown, Arcadia. "If you didn't wear a cowboy hat on the street, you were arrested."

The quiet farm girl came to Tampa in 1944 when her husband bought a gas station in Hyde Park. The run-down Hyde Park they came to know was nothing like the chic Hyde Park of today.

"You couldn't even get a loan in that neighborhood back then," said daughter-in-law Julie Algood. "In fact, if you lived there, and you grew up there, they called you 'Hyde Park Trash."'

The Algood household quickly grew tense. Ms. Algood's husband left the family and rarely, if ever, checked in, forcing Ms. Algood to raise her four boys alone.

Fortunately, she had a knack for it. In addition to the boys, she raised countless pets, from poodles to Yorkshire terriers to Persian cats.

"I can remember having six litters of puppies all at the same time on the back porch," Patrick said. "She was trying to run from one mother to the next mother, delivering babies. She'd wake me up at 2 a.m.: 'Someone's having babies!"'

In the early 1960s, she found an outlet for her hospitable nature. She opened an unofficial child care center at her Morrison Avenue home, taking in kids from the nearby Jewish Community Center and local schools.

Some mornings, Ms. Algood woke up at 5:30 to accommodate parents who had to be at work early. She cooked hot meals for the children and waited until it got dark for the parents to come pick them up.

Her business soon outgrew her capacity. The health department, which during the 1960s regulated child care facilities, told her to build an adequate separate building for the business.

She went to several banks before finding one that would loan her the money needed to build a small concrete structure behind her house. As the nursery grew, she bought the houses on both sides of her own. She expanded her business and rented out extra rooms to anyone who happened to be in need.

"Sometimes she had renters that were downtrodden," said Julie Algood, who rented a room there while working as a flight attendant and later married Ms. Algood's son Stephen.

"My mother-in-law would say, 'They need you more than anyone. You need to help them more than you need to help people who have things.' She set the example for her children, and her four sons are all very good people because of it."

More and more children kept coming to Algood Child Care Center. At one time, she would pick up as many as 80 kids from Gorrie and Mitchell elementary schools, St. John's Episcopal Day School, Sea Born Day School on Davis Islands, and several others.

A member of Bayshore Baptist Church, Ms. Algood always put others before herself.

"She was a good old country girl -- not much of a socialite," Patrick said. "She never drank a drop in her life; she was a strict Baptist woman who would sit and sing Baptist hymns while she cooked."

She took on extra help, from a pair of assistants to a kindergarten-level teacher. She partnered with St. John's Episcopal to take care of kindergarteners whose parents wouldn't be able to pick them up until later in the afternoon.

"She was a real grandmotherly type," said the Rev. George Burchill, a longtime headmaster at St. John's Episcopal.

"It was a great place for kids, we thought. A kid could dig in the dirt in the back yard, or climb a tree. Just a good place to have fun. Sometimes she'd have one kid on her knee, comforting it because it had tripped over something, and she'd be patting another one on the back."

Algood Child Care Center stayed open until 1992, when the workload simply became too much.

"Every time you'd go out there, she'd have one or two babies hanging off of her," Patrick said. "By the end she looked like a little old woman driving that big old van, but she'd go out and pick them all up."

When the nursery closed, the Rev. Burchill sent Ms. Algood a note thanking her for watching over thousands of children, among them his own grandchildren.

"With the closing of the day care center comes the end of an era, and I want to thank you," he wrote.

Ms. Algood's survivors include four sons, James, Jack, Stephen and Patrick; their wives; and nine grandchildren, all of Tampa.

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