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Shepherdstown Day Care center offers care for all income levels

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Missy Sheehan / For The State Journal. The Shepherdstown Day Care Center, located at 531 East German St. in Shepherdstown, has grown to accommodate up to 100 children between the ages of 12 weeks and 10 years since its founding in 1973. Missy Sheehan / For The State Journal. The Shepherdstown Day Care Center, located at 531 East German St. in Shepherdstown, has grown to accommodate up to 100 children between the ages of 12 weeks and 10 years since its founding in 1973.
Photo courtesy of Shepherdstown Day Care Center. Students enjoy their weekly water play activity at the Shepherdstown Day Care Center in Shepherdstown. Photo courtesy of Shepherdstown Day Care Center. Students enjoy their weekly water play activity at the Shepherdstown Day Care Center in Shepherdstown.
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By MISSY SHEEHAN

For The State Journal

Back in 1973, Shepherdstown Day Care Inc. Child Development Center became the first nonprofit child care facility in Jefferson County. At that time, according to its website, staff had room to care for up to 20 children. Today, the day care, located at 531 East German St. in Shepherdstown, has grown to accommodate up to 100 children between the ages of 12 weeks and 10 years.

For Hannah Lloyd, a 29-year-old mother of two living in Shepherdstown, Shepherdstown Day Care Center has been something of a family tradition. She and her sisters were students there when they were children. Lloyd loved her experience as a child so much, she's sent both of her children there. Her 9-year-old daughter, Addie, was a student there for almost eight years.

“She misses it sometimes, but now that she's older she likes to be home during the summer and go to soccer camps,” Lloyd said. Her 3-year-old son, Nate, has been going there since he was an infant and is about to enter the pre-K program. “He loves it!” she said.

“I think it's a great idea for a mom to send her kids to the same day care she went to,” added Lloyd, who also serves as the chair of the day care's parent committee. “I did love it there.”

Education For All

At Shepherdstown Day Care Center, the staff's focus is on more than just providing a safe atmosphere for children while their parents are working.

“We want to provide quality educational experiences and care for all children, regardless of socioeconomic status,” said Melissa Holman, the day care's director.

To further that mission, the day care offers a sliding scale for tuition that's based on gross family income. “We're the only ones in the area offering that,” Holman said. The day care serves families making anywhere from less than $25,000 to more than $125,000, she added.

Nearly half of the families with children at the day care are living at or below the poverty level and are receiving assistance through MountainHeart Child Care Resource & Referral Services, a subsidy program funded by the state that helps low-income families pay for childcare.

“A lot of our parents are Shepherd (University) students or single parents,” Holman said. “And they need the help to be able to continue their education and work and still be able to send their kids to a quality center they respect and feel comfortable leaving them in.

“That's what I love about the center — we have kids on the lower end of the socioeconomic ladder, who might be getting support from MountainHeart, and they're in the same classroom with kids whose families make well above the top end of the ladder. And those kids don't know whose mommy and daddy receive MountainHeart and whose are paying the highest level of tuition. They all receive the same love, care and educational experiences no matter where they fall on that ladder.”

Encouraging Learning Through Play

As part of the its focus on providing quality educational experiences, Shepherdstown Day Care Center uses a creative curriculum model that Holman said is designed to harness children's imaginations and encourage learning, geared toward what children are interested in learning.

“It's a play-based program,” said Patty Martineau, president of the day care's board of directors. “The children really enjoy it, and we've gotten good results.”

Throughout each day, teachers guide children's learning as they interact with them and organize individual and group activities that support early literacy, mathematics, language development, social and emotional development, physical health and development and the arts and sciences.

Older children at Shepherdstown Day Care Center also can enjoy activities such as pottery, which is currently being offered through a grant from the Eastern West Virginia Community Foundation.

Since 2007, the day care center has been partnering with the Jefferson County Board of Education to provide its pre-K program, which is designed to prepare students for their future educational endeavors.

“It's been very successful,” Martineau said. “The children who've been in our pre-K program have been doing very well in elementary school.”

Covering Costs

As a nonprofit organization, the day care has faced difficulties obtaining necessary funding in recent years, Holman said, due to changes in the MountainHeart program.

“They're making cuts on how many childcare hours a parent is allotted,” Holman said. “For instance, a family may have had eight hours of care, where it allowed parents to go to school, have study time and time for travel. Now, they've cut back, and that family might only get six hours.”

Those cuts have in turn reduced the funding reimbursement that the day care receives.

“We expect when we accept MountainHeart children that we're going to have a deficit, but this has really cut into our budget tremendously,” Holman said.

To make up for the loss in funding, the day care is relying more heavily on community support and annual fundraisers, like its upcoming Run by the River 5K walk/run and the wine auction in late March or early April each year, to cover operating costs.

The annual Run by the River 5K, scheduled for Sept. 6, will lead runners on a predetermined path up and down the hills along the river before ending at the Rumsey Monument. The event costs $25 for pre-registered runners and $28 at the door.

“It's a fun day,” said Holman. “We'll also have a children's run just to the monument and back, where we'll have a red tape for them to run through and people cheering them on.”

Parents and children can participate in the Kids Fun Run for free. All proceeds will benefit the day care center, said Lloyd, who's helping to organize the event.

Interested runners can register for the 2014 Run by the River 5K event at active.com/shepherstown-wv/running/distance-running-races/run-by-the-river-to-benefit-shepherdstown-daycare-2014.

Learn more about the Shepherdstown Day Care Center at shepherdstowndaycare.org.