After more than seven years of effort devoted to opening a day care center in Eads, with the last 18 months being rubber-meets-the-road pulling the project together, the Little Leaders Learning & Care Center (LLLCC) is on the home stretch. And, from what was seen during last week’s Grand Opening tour, the LLLCC promises to be a center devoted to providing the children who attend an experience as warm and welcoming as it is instructional and supportive of development.
The center is structured to provide space for a total of roughly 60 children, with openings for seven infants, eight toddlers, twelve 2 ½ to 5 year olds, twelve 3-5 year olds, eleven school aged children plus an additional room in their Summer Camp program for eleven more school aged children. As far as the physical layout of the center, which is located in the Baptist Church on Maine Street, it seems that a combination of divine providence and thinking outside-of-the-box played a huge role in how the situation developed as it did.
“It truly looks as if this wing of the building was built to house a childcare center,” says Tina Kraft, Director of LLLCC. “The rooms are laid out perfectly and the size of each one is exactly what we need.”Kraft, who has been with the project since the beginning, describes a process that seemed to just open up before them. “It all started when the Baptist Church offered to let us rent their building,” she says. “That made all the difference in the world.” She goes on to add, “The next step was forming a Board of Directors and hiring a director. It’s the hard work and determination of this group of caring community members that has been effective to keep the project moving forward. But the big motivator is the sheer need from the families in the community.”
Kraft says that need has presented itself in a variety of ways, not the least of which is related to employment opportunities. As she describes it, “One of the biggest indicators that this center was needed came from hearing both parents and business owners say that the lack of available childcare was keeping people from being able to work and business owners from hiring reliable employees.”
Kraft’s take on the situation is backed up by the data. A majority of employees now say that availability of childcare and childcare benefits—in those situations where employers offer that amenity—are among the largest factors impacting where they choose to work and how long they choose to stay with a company or organization.
However, simply offering childcare is only half of the equation. An equally important factor to be considered is the quality of childcare being offered, and, in that area, Kraft truly shines.
Childcare is not new to Tina Kraft. She has years of experience both teaching and supervising other teachers in a childcare center, but being the director of her own facility has always been her dream. Her devotion to that dream is apparent in her speech, the setup of the classrooms and the plans she has for the center in the future. And the child—each child—is at the center of all those areas, from providing him or her with a warm, nurturing and loving environment to providing activities that promote good socialization with others to the development of pre-kindergarten skills and abilities and a sense of well-being and acceptance. One couldn’t ask for more in a childcare center.It should also be noted that, in addition to meeting state regulations for licensure, funding the operation of a center is an on-going challenge. More on that will be addressed in a follow up article in next week’s edition of the Independent.
The target date for opening the LLLCC is September 2nd, but that includes several caveats. Although a state inspector has been involved with the project throughout its development, the official inspection of the center—the inspection that determines licensure—is set for this Friday. The results of that inspection, plus hiring the remainder of the staff needed to operate the center followed by related background checks, fingerprints and pre-service training may all combine to impact that opening date.
Hours of operation will be from 6am to 6pm with “drop-ins” welcome. The LLLCC will also be open Monday through Friday throughout the year with the following exceptions: New Year’s Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Friday of Fair (2nd Friday in September), Thanksgiving Day and the day after, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
LLLCC is accepting applications for students now, and anyone who is interested should contact Tina Kraft directly at the LLLCC office (719-438-2005) or on her cell phone (719-688-7801). All inquiries and questions are welcome.