Cheri M. Gioe | 10/19/2007 12:12:32 AM
CHALMETTE – The LSU AgCenter is helping bring day care centers back to the Greater New Orleans area.
On Oct. 12, the Heart of Learning Child Care Center in Chalmette became the fourth day care center to reopen in the Greater New Orleans area. The center received grant funds from the Greater New Orleans Rebuild Child Care Collaborative, whose purpose is to help rebuild child care centers in Hurricane Katrina-affected parishes.
The LSU AgCenter provided training and technical support in setting up the business, according to Cheri Gioe, an LSU AgCenter child care expert who participated in the day care’s grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Day care owners Billie, Angela and Rhonda Lopez saw the need for a day care and sought assistance. The three are former St. Bernard Parish teachers.
The new center was a house before the storm but now is licensed to care for 72 children with more than half of its capacity already enrolled.
Since the storm, the availability of quality child care in St. Bernard Parish has been crucial to the area’s economic recovery.
"As people started returning, we soon realized that child care would be needed so parents could get back to work," Gioe said.
The LSU AgCenter was awarded a $1 million grant from the state Department of Social Services to offer child care business training to centers in the hurricane-affected parishes.
As part of the grant, the attendees receive curriculum materials and toys to help them get started.
Gioe said it needs to be noted that Heart of Learning Child Care Center does accept child care assistance, which is a federal program that helps low-income parents pay for child care as long as they are working or in school.
Angela Lopez said the center takes babies as young as 6 weeks up to 4-year-olds and is available for after-school kids.
"We just saw a need. As people started to come back after the storm there was no place to take care of their kids as they tried to rebuild. And we saw this as an opportunity to give back to our community," Lopez said.
Lopez’s sister-in-law, Rhonda Lopez said, "Just last week a mom called and said she was trying to get some painting done but couldn’t because the baby kept crying. So she called and asked if she could bring the baby, and we said ‘sure.’"
"Before the storm," Angela Lopez said, "There were 34 day cares in St. Bernard Parish. So far we only have four up and running."
Gioe said the parishes involved in this rebuilding program include St. Bernard, Plaquemines, Orleans, Jefferson and St. Tammany.
The collaborative is made up of several agencies: Agenda For Children; Children Defense Fund—Louisiana; Louisiana Department of Social Services; Louisiana Institute of Mental Hygiene; Louisiana Family Recovery Corps; LSU AgCenter; Save The Children; United Way For The Greater New Orleans Area; Success By 6, United Way’s Women’s Leadership Initiative; LSU Office of Community Design and Development; Idea Village; and Tulane Institute For Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health.
For further information about LSU AgCenter child care programs, visit the Web site at www.lsuagcenter.com.