When it comes to kids, a lot of growth can happen in one year, sometimes unpredictably.
When The Kids’ Place Day Care on Chebeague Island opened on August 4, 2008, the founders had no idea how quickly their brainchild would outgrow its own footprint.
Having reached maximum capacity 21 separate times since the beginning of August 2009, work is underway to raise funds for a building that would increase capacity and provide the Kids Place with a permanent home, fitted out with activity and napping spaces, child-friendly bathrooms, play areas, and storage.
At the Chebeague Recreation Center, where the Kids Place is now located,
Kelley Rich, executive director of the Recreation Center, and Paige Boisvert, Kids’ Place Director, slipped quickly through the doorway marked by “The Kids’ Place” in construction paper letters.
In the darkened room, three toddlers sprawled out on beds and in cribs, the soothing sound of waves from a white noise machine drowning out the noise from outside. Care provider Lori Rich tended to two infants who were crawling instead of napping. There are blankets and toys and brightly colored pillows, as well as a big comfy couch perfect for lounging, a sign of the room’s other function during evenings as the Teen Center. Boisvert was reminded of this during the early days of the Kids’ Place when the cribs and temporary dividers were disassembled and removed everyday to accommodate the busy Teen Center schedule. The teens will have their own room back again once the new day care is created.
Even at less than half capacity it is easy to see how the subdivided room could become tight with its maximum capacity of 12 kids, ages ranging from four months to 12 years old. “The problem [is] actually the good thing,” said Bob Earnest, Building Committee Chair for the new Kids Place structure, “There [is] too much demand.”
Most of the demand comes from year-round families trying to balance raising kids with working on the island or commuting to the mainland. The daycare is open from 6:25 a.m to 4:30 p.m.
Most parents work on the island, including Rich and Boisvert who work at the Recreation Center and utilize the day care facility for their own children.
Over this past summer, as year-round islanders participated in the seasonal work frenzy that warm weather brings and school was not an option to occupy active youngsters, the capacity soon maxed out and several kids had to be turned away.
The Recreation Center had satisfied the basic needs for a year, but it was time to look into alternatives. “It was great that we could be here [at the Recreation Center] because we really wanted to make sure it could work,” said Rich. “And having a year to do that in a place that was safe for us because we didn’t have to put a lot of money into it. Now we know its working and we’ve all been overwhelmed by the need for it.”
After being presented with the pros and cons of using existing structures on the island, ranging from private homes to an assisted living facility, or building a structure from scratch, the Kids’ Place Steering Committee decided that purchasing a modular unit and locating it at the site between the Island School and the Recreation Center was the best option. They took into consideration cost of structure and installation, transportation issues, proximity to the school, and amenities available to the kids such as a gym, ball field, and playground.
The Kids’ Place will be housed in a used portable classroom from Schiavi Leasing Corporation in Oxford, Maine, a subsidiary of Vanguard Modular Building Systems. The refurbished 58 foot by 27 foot structure will be modified to accommodate bathrooms, storage areas, play and napping areas, and a kitchen while meeting code requirements for a day care facility.
Rich estimates the Kids’ Place could be up and running in three to four days after delivery. But the money to pay for the new Kids Place must be in hand, an effort that Boisvert says is going well. “We haven’t been turned down yet,” she said of the fundraising efforts. Approximately $58,000 of the $130,000 to purchase and install the modular classroom has been raised through private donations since the capital campaign began at the end of the summer.
Rich is also working on attaining a grant from the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Rural Development division and spoke about the possibility of applying for a low interest loan from the division if needed to expedite the ordering and delivery of the unit while donations are still being solicited. Their goal is to have $100,000 in pledges before placing the order. They are optimistic for a December delivery.
A new home for the day care is about expanding the possibility of viable island living to young, working families. “It is going well,” said Rich about the fundraising effort. “How can you not be supportive when you come and see what’s going on?”
For more information about day care services or to make a donation to the Kids’ Place, a program of the Chebeague Island Recreation Center, a 501(c)3 non-profit corporation, contact Kelley Rich at 207.846.5068.