Day care center at community college operates with new look, new manager

September 11, 1994|By Karin Remesch | Karin Remesch,Contributing Writer

When Rebecca Raico heads for night classes at Harford Community College, she takes her 4-year-old son along. While she studies for a degree in nursing, her boy learns nursery rhymes in a nearby building.

Before each class, Mrs. Raico drops off young Pasquale at the YMCA Campus Day Care Center.

"Without the center, I wouldn't be able to go to school," says Mrs. Raico. "My husband is in the military, and he's currently stationed in Korea. I wouldn't have anyone to watch my son."

While the center caters to Harford Community College students who attend day and evening classes, it also welcomes children from the community.

The center, which was operated by the YWCA for about six years, was taken over by the YMCA this summer.

It officially opened July 5 after more than 300 volunteer hours were spent during the Fourth of July weekend scrubbing, painting, wallpapering, refurbishing and reorganizing.

By the time the renovations are complete and a new van purchased, the cost of turning the facility into a premier day care center will be nearly $70,000, said Richard T. Przywara, executive director of the YMCA's Harford County Family Branch.

"It is more than just a name change. We are giving the center an entire new look," said Chris Ader-Soto, director of family services for the YMCA in Harford County.

Kelly Shahsavan-Willey, who enrolled her three children in the center's summer program while it was still being operated by the YWCA, said there has been "a dramatic improvement, not only in the appearance of the center, but also in the quality of the staff."

Mrs. Shahsavan-Willey was ready pull her children out of the center and enroll them elsewhere when she learned about the management changes.

"The center used to be dreary, dirty and dark and there were no structured programs," she said. "Now it's warm and homey and the staff is enthusiastic -- instead of just being baby-sat, my children now receive an educational program. And the attitude of the staff shows that they love their job."

The day care center building on the community college campus, which also houses the Kelleher Adult Day Care Center, is owned by the college and leased to the YMCA.

The YMCA is the largest nonprofit day care provider in the county, servicing more than 1,000 children a day in 17 before- and after-school programs, said Mr. Przywara.

"We're really happy to have the YMCA aboard," said Harford Community College spokeswoman Frances Turcott. "They've done an excellent job renovating the center -- a real volunteer effort. They are a well-run organization, willing to expand programs to meet our needs."

When the YWCA wanted to refocus its resources and energy on its family center in Aberdeen, the college and the YWCA agreed to renegotiate the contract, said Ms. Turcott.

"The college also desired an increase in special services and hours that the YWCA was not currently able to provide," she said.

The center is open from 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Fridays. Full- and part-day programs are offered, along with a half-day kindergarten program that includes transportation to and from school and hourly drop-in care.

"We are the only center in the county with an evening drop-in program," Mr. Przywara said.

Rates range from $191 for full-time care for 2-year-olds to drop-in rates of $3.25 an hour, with a minimum of two hours per day. Financial assistance is available to qualified families.

The center and the college hope to collaborate in a variety of programs, such as working closely with the college's early childhood development curriculum, said Mr. Przywara, and the center intends to use the college's pool, science program, theater and nature walk.

To further show its commitment to the college, the YMCA Harford County Family Branch moved its administration offices to the campus day care facility.

When public schools opened last Wednesday, about 85 children were enrolled at the center -- more than double last year's enrollment.

The center has a capacity for 92 children, ages 2 through kindergarten, full time and a total enrollment of about 120.

"We're about two-thirds full. The enrollment shows the great need for the day care center in this area -- it will be a booming year," Mr. Przywara said.

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