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Children’s Home expansion creates outreach opportunities

Children’s Home expansion creates outreach opportunities

Conference News Missions and Outreach Next Generations
Preschoolers from "In As Much" sang to the guests during groundbreaking.

ENTERPRISE—Imagine children learning about when dinosaurs roamed this planet with a 12-foot timeline of that period stretched across the classroom floor.

Does that sound too far-fetched?

The groundbreaking ceremony for the Lamar Louise Curry Early Childhood Education Development Center took place in late 2017.

Well, not if you are Theresa Green, the head Montessori teacher at the soon-to-open Lamar Louise Curry Early Childhood Education Development Center on the north side of the Florida Methodist Children’s Home campus. The 20,000 square-foot building will now allow for such a luxury.

“We’ve been waiting (for this) a long time,” Green said. “We’re very excited.”

The new building, which will be completed once the near-daily downpours end allowing workers to finish the construction, replaces a building that housed the Early Childhood Development Center since 1980.

That smaller building had a capacity of 70. Capacity in the new building is capped at 250. The Center served 220 children last year, and some children had to be placed on a waiting list.

“My staff and I are beside ourselves with joy because we’ve done all we can do with his beautiful, but old, building,” Director of Early Childhood Education Jayne Carroll said. “We have utilized every space and have even grown out of this building into other buildings.”

And now? Dinosaur timelines.

“We haven’t been able to do that in (the former) building because our space is so limited,” Green said. “We will be able to expand every area that the children learn about because we teach in such a hands-on way; we’ll be able to put out more activities in each area to draw their attention to what they are ready to learn and build on.”

Construction progress from April 2018: building on a strong foundation.

The old building was named “In As Much” after the verses in Matthew 25 (King James Version) where Jesus tells the story about the sheep and the goats. (“Inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these…)

The Early Childhood Education Development program, which works with newborns to children age 12, has been so successful that the “In As Much” facility became, well, a dinosaur of sorts.

Lamar Louise Curry, one of the main donors, is the granddaughter of the Rev. Dr. James D. De Pass. He was the first employee of the Florida United Methodist Children’s Home and was hired to raise money to help found the original Florida Methodist Orphanage in 1908. 

The center named after her will have a full-sized cafeteria, space to hold teachers meetings and room for parent training programs. The Early Childhood Education Development program will include a kindergarten, homework assistance and computer instructions after school.

Carroll said a new, bigger building had been the talk for “years and years,” but it was not until 2008 when it was finally placed on the planning board. Donors helped raise the $4.8 million needed for the project.

Classes begin Aug. 13, though Carroll said the new building will not be completed by then. She does expect it to be open for learning by Sept. 1.

“That’s when the real work will begin,” Carroll said, “because we are so excited about all the new opportunities this will give us to serve the community.

“We are looking into expanding to have an after-school program for middle school children,” she said.

Carroll envisions a community-based club for a small group who aged out of the traditional program. They could design projects in the community, like a garden at the senior center.

The new facilities will create space for potential community service projects for children who have aged out of the program.

“It would prepare their minds for the reality in the real world: ‘I want this done; how do I get this done?’” she said. “It helps them develop a little higher level of understanding of how things work and how to make things happen. We’re looking forward to doing that in the very near future.”

Carroll also would like to start a program for first-time parents, especially single mothers and fathers who do not have the support of their family.

“We see ourselves being part of that support system for young mothers and fathers,” she said. “We’ve touched on it before, and we enjoyed it immensely; so we would like to do that again.”

They already offer CPR and first aid classes for parents. Also being considered are behavioral management classes and classes that teach parents how to prepare financially for their children’s future.

“My mind’s going crazy because it’s almost endless what you can offer parents in terms of information,” Carroll said.

—Roger Mooney is a freelance writer based in Bradenton.

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