By Maggie Kenworthy
WINONA LAKE — A ribbon cutting was held Wednesday morning, April 29, at Winona Lake Grace Brethren Church for the recently opened Early Childhood Alliance Pop-Up Center.
The childcare center is available for children of essential healthcare workers and emergency responders.
The idea to open the childcare center was originally brought up by representatives of Kosciusko Community Hospital after workers were having difficulty finding childcare amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Kosciusko County’s Child Care and Early Learning Coalition, also known as LaunchPad, then partnered with community organizations to make this solution possible.
The childcare center officially opened on Monday, April 27, and there are currently 20 children enrolled. The facility can handle up to 50 children, ranging from two months to 12 years old. The center will be open Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.
“I have direct communication with the parents in and out every day and I hear how thankful they are,” said Sherry Searles, director of Launchpad. “Many of them talked about having to juggle their kids, sometimes two places in one day or different days at different places. They are so thankful to have one consistent place for their children to come here.”
The Kosciusko County Community Foundation donated the first grant to get the center started.
“We understand how essential medical workers are to be able to respond to COVID and how difficult it is right now to find childcare,” said Stephanie Overby, CEO of the Kosciusko County Community Foundation.
The Zimmer Biomet Foundation was another large donor that helped support opening the center.
“It’s focused on those first responders in the medical community that are so important,” said Monica Kendrick, representing the Zimmer Biomet Foundation. “We are looking for every opportunity to say thanks anyway we can and to support the work that they are doing around COVID-19.”
The staff members are provided by Parkview Warsaw YMCA. Jim Swanson explained that when approached with the opportunity, the YMCA provided a list of staff members who were furloughed when the facility closed in March and some of those workers have been redeployed to help with this cause.
Other partners include Warsaw Community Schools, Rabb Water Systems and Winona Lake Grace Brethren Church.
The center has a strict sanitation schedule and will follow the CDC and state social distancing guidelines. The children are in groups of no more than 6-10. Children and staff are required to have their temperature taken each morning before they enter the building.
The care is free of charge and the center will remain open until other programs begin to open back up and social distancing has ended. The center still has openings and interested parents who work in healthcare or as an emergency responder can get more information by emailing [email protected] or calling (574) 230-0357.