Toy library to lend cheer to area day care operators

December 03, 1991|By Mary Maushard | Mary Maushard,Evening Sun Staff

In Tuesday's Evening Sun, the phone number for Marilyn Spence, child-care coordinator for the Housing Authority of Baltimore City, was listed incorrectly. The correct number is 396-4271. The Evening Sun regrets the error.

THERE ARE brand new books, unplayed games and shiny trucks filled with bright blocks in the Children's Book, Toy and Game Lending Library at the Somerset Child Care Center in East Baltimore.

Soon the 62 children who attend that center and several hundred others who live in the neighborhood will be reading those books and sharing those playthings. They'll be able to check out the new items for several weeks, return them and try out another toy or book.


The women who care for these children will be sharing, too -- sharing their experiences and know-how as family day-care providers. They'll be sharing with each other and with the child-care workers who staff the Somerset Center in the midst of the city's Somerset housing project.

Through the lending library, the Housing Authority of Baltimore City and several public and private organizations hope not only to provide age-appropriate playthings for youngsters in day care, but also a place where family day-care providers can gather to get ideas, support and occasional training.

The lending library, started with a $2,000 grant from the Junior League of Baltimore, will soon be serving 50 registered family day-care providers who live in the Somerset project and around it, says Myra Schein, the child-care coordinator for the Mayor's Office of Children and Youth and the project's guiding light. The staff and children at the center will be able to use the lending library, too.

Coming to the library will be "a good activity for me and my kids," says Celestina Fenner, a day-care mother who lives about four blocks away. She is also looking forward to the workshops where she will learn "how to play with the toys with the kids."

Fenner, who has been a family day-care provider for 10 years, takes care of three children 1 to 3 years old, she says.

Another day-care mother, Serina Tart, says the lending library will be especially helpful to new day-care providers, who may not know what toys are appropriate for what age groups. Tart was among a group of family day-care providers who helped Schein select the toys and books for the library.

As a day-care mother for more than 11 years, Tart says she has quite a collection of playthings at her East Baltimore home, but still plans to use the library. "It will be good for them to come and learn," she says. Besides, "toys and games and books are so expensive."

"We're trying to put in the hands of the mothers . . . some things that will give them expertise in a very easy way," says Anne Eickenberg, an associate member of the Junior League. Some of the playthings are for babies as young as 6 months, others for children as old as 8 years, says Eickenberg, who also sold the Discovery Toys to the library and will acquaint the staff and the day-care providers with the toys.

"We thought it was a great idea," says Pam Malester, a member of the Junior League's Community Assistance Fund committee, which last year gave about $17,000 to projects supporting literacy and women's issues and helping the elderly and youth at risk.

Schein, who wrote the project grant, enlisted the help of day-care providers, stocked the shelves and continues to solicit funds for the library, is particularly pleased with the number of agencies and groups cooperating in this project.

Volunteers from a family support project at Lafayette Courts, another nearby housing development, will staff the library. They will be helped by school-age children from the day-care center and two women from Green Thumb, an employment agency that trains and places people 55 and older in jobs with non-profit organizations. Signet Bank is also sponsoring the project.

Schein hopes that the lending library, the city's first, will be a model for similar projects. The day-care providers, too, "see this as just a beginning for other collaborative efforts . . . as being a seed for other things,'' she says.

Financial help is still necessary to maintain and expand the lending library, Schein says. Anyone interested in helping can contact Marilyn Spence, child-care coordinator for the Housing Authority of Baltimore City, at 386-4271.

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