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New center to fill 'a big need'

Zoe Greszler • Jan 24, 2018 at 4:00 AM

WILLARD — The community will soon have a new option for child care or preschool.

The Willard Child Development Center, which is planned to open in March, will offer child care services and a preschool for children between 6 weeks and 12 years old. The center will be “all inclusive,” caring for typically developing and special needs children.

The center, which will be located in the former Kindernest location, 401 S. Conwell Ave., Willard, was something that “just came together,” building owner Chris Donnamiller said.

“Pretty much I’ve been praying about something for about five years and I was planning for something else but it didn’t work out,” she said.

“Then this came up and I thought this was a way to help people too. It was a godly thing really. There was a time I didn’t think I could afford it. So I just started praying that someone would get it because it’s needed. I have many friends that are grandparents watching their grandkids. There’s a big need.

“Then I talked with Andrea (Weis) on the phone and found out she just has so much to offer this community it just was like two-plus two equals four. It made so much sense.”

Donnamiller and her husband Roger purchased the building and are leasing it to Weis, who will be the business and program owner.

Weis currently runs Home Away from Home Child Care, out of her family’s Norwalk house. However, the business will close when Willard Child Development opens.

Kindernest closed about 18 months ago and the building was empty until late December when Donnamillers made the purchase.

“I want people to be happy,” Weis said, referring to what her daycare/preschool will offer. “I want them to know their kids are safe and be able to go to work and school and make a better life for their family and not worry, because their kids are safe and they’re learning.

“It’s so sad when someone says they can’t work because they can’t afford it or ‘I can’t work because I can’t trust people.’ It shouldn’t be like that. It takes a community to raise a kid and we need to get back to that.”

Passion and compassion are some things that Weis and Donnamiller said will set the center apart from other options throughout the community.

Weis said the center also will provide all snacks and meals — something she felt was “necessary.”

“It’s hard for parents,” she said. “It’s hard for me to pack my own lunch. It’s hard for parents to pack their kid’s lunch and then you need to have the meat, the bread, the fruit, the vegetable and the milk. It’s so much and it’s just nice to be able to take that away from parents and make it easier for them.”

Weis said most centers can’t offer food because of the extra requirements, but she doesn’t plan on cutting any corners.

“Another thing that’s going to make us different is the step-up to quality program,” she said.

“We can’t apply for that until six months into our license, but we will be operating as if we already have that. Basically that’s where we have lesson plans, we do assessments on the kids and there are parent-teacher conferences even for the little ones at 6 weeks old, all the way up to 12 years old. We’ll also have community events.”

Already the Weises, with the help of local youth group JC Teens, have repainted every wall, door and trim, “done a lot of cleaning” and had the building inspected by many of the required organizations.

While the center is still under renovations, Donnamiller said Weis is “working almost around the clock” to get it done. The center has a few renovations left, including separating off rooms for different age groups, finishing the outdoor playground and getting its state license.

The center plans to employ about five teachers initially, with hopes of growing to 10 teachers in the future. It will be open from 5 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Weis said she hopes down the road, if there is a need to be open later that she will be able to keep it the center running until 8 or 10 p.m.

The center will hold an open house in the next two months to allow parents to walk through, meet the staff and learn about the program.

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