Childcare is a serious concern in Charlotte as it is in most other places.
After the service at Charlotte Congregational Church on Sunday, members and guests gathered to celebrate some steps that have been taken to deal with this major need here.
The church has greatly expanded its playground and renovated a room to add more spots for infants, toddlers and pre-K students in town.
On a beautiful day as children romped on the new and improved playground, Rev. Kevin Goldenbogen and Kelly Bouteiller, executive director of the Charlotte Children’s Center, described for those gathered how the project to add space at the church originated last fall from a conversation in which Bouteiller revealed there were about 179 children on a waiting list for the children’s center.
The children’s center’s wastewater system is maxed out and more children can’t be added to its programming there.
The conversation “really brought to light how much need there is in the community for high-quality care,” Bouteiller said. “We sort of had this last-ditch opportunity to apply for a grant through Let’s Grow Kids just before that organization sunsetted this year.”
So, they asked. And they received.
With a lot of collaboration and generosity from members of the church, a room in the church’s basement where a lot of stuff had been stored has been renovated.
“Because of the generosity of the church, it really grew into quite a large project. We now have a beautiful room that has plumbing and new climate control. It will be a really lovely space to take care of children,” she said.
The church and the children’s center hope to welcome six more infants into the expanded facility the first week of October. The remaining hurdle is getting the final licensing, but all signs point to that being cleared with ease.
Six more infants may seem like a small step for childcare, but nonetheless,s it is a giant leap in Charlotte, to paraphrase Neil Armstrong.
“This is one step to do what we can,” Goldenbogen said. “Carving out six infant spaces is a huge job.”
The ratio of children to adults is much smaller the younger children are. One childcare worker is required per four infants.
And the need for more infant and preschool childcare is urgent across the state and nation, Bouteiller said.
The expansion has worked because of good communication and the healthy relationship between the church and the Charlotte Children’s Center, Goldenbogen said. The project raised about $75,000 from a variety of sources. Besides Let’s Grow Kids, a “very generous” donation from SCHIP (Shelburne Charlotte Hinesburg Interfaith Projects) and donations from Dorothy and Norman Pellett, Tina Helzer, church events, the children’s center and others made the expansion possible.
The funding was “cobbled together from a lot of different people who understood the vision and just wanted to be part of it,” Goldenbogen said. “And you’re all standing here today.”
After the presentation, Bouteiller said there are more children on their waiting list now than when they began working on the expansion in the fall.
The Charlotte Children’s Center has 38 children at its facility on Ferry Road across from the Charlotte Library and hopes to have room for at least 14 at the church.