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Child-care center celebrates 25th

The Christian-based center at Grace Brethren Church serves children ages 2 to 6.

The Christian-based center at Grace Brethren Church serves children ages 2 to 6.

September 17, 2006|by CANDICE BOSELY

Sharon Brake likes to flip through the newspaper, looking for familiar faces. She has countless clippings in folders and on the walls near her office, with certain faces circled.

They're the pictures of children who have attended Grace Child Care Center at Grace Brethren Church in Hagerstown.

The child-care center is celebrating its 25th anniversary of being in business. An open house and reception were scheduled to be held today from noon to 3 p.m. Former students were encouraged to attend.

Brake, the center's director, said the child-care center was opened because of a need in the community.

"I definitely think it would be nice if mothers could stay at home with their children, but that was not possible so we wanted to provide" a service that would fill a need, said Brake, who has worked at the center for 18 years.

The center, which serves children ages 2 to 6, currently has an enrollment of 43. It has a staff of nine and is open year-round from 6:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

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Two snacks are provided each day.

Children learn "dramatic play" through activities such as painting, using crayons or playing house or dress-up; they have play time; they develop fine muscle skills using puzzles or crafts; and take part in a daily Bible time.

"We try to do social, emotional and cognitive as well as physical and spiritual. We try to teach all areas," Brake said.

Children also learn of consequences, boundaries and self-control.

"It's about right choices versus wrong choices. We don't use (the word) bad," Brake said.

The child-care center, at 837 Spruce St., has several classrooms, a playground and an indoor play area. There also are plenty of toys, and several Noah's Ark models were on the shelves.

Children are grouped based on age.

On a recent tour of the center, youngsters were sleeping on individual cots; a state requirement of child-care centers is that nap time be provided. Soothing music played quietly.

"We don't call ourselves a preschool, but we could be considered a preschool because of (the) alphabet, shapes, the things we teach," Brake said.

The school might be different from others in that all employees must be Christians.

Every aspect of the child-care center is Christian-based, said Dean P. Pryor, a pastor at the church. He used as an example the prayers that are said before all snack times.

"I guess a Christian world- view is the best way to put it," he said.

Artwork that children make is displayed on the walls and Brake said employees try to focus on each child's strengths and talents.

She said that several years ago one boy seemed to excel at Wiffle ball; later in high school he was a member of the All-County baseball team.

"We try to see the individual child. I know it's a large group, but we try to see the individual needs," Brake said. "You encourage things you see in them."

The center has a few basic rules for children who attend.

"Our three simple rules are, be kind to yourself, be kind to your friends and be kind to your things," said Brake, elaborating that the last rule is designed to prevent children from throwing or breaking objects.

Brake started out at the center as a teacher before being named director in February 2004.

"I consider it a ministry as well as a job," Brake said.

Pryor said he was pleased that attending the child-care center helped his son, Caleb, to "come out of his shell" and be less shy.

Pryor popped a cassette into a VCR in his office to show his son's performance at an annual holiday concert at the church.

Rates for the child-care center are assessed daily.

Being a member of the church is not a requirement to enroll a child, although church members receive a 20 percent discount.

The center costs $22.22 a day, with a discount if more than one child from a family is enrolled. Attending for a half-day costs $17.76. State vouchers are accepted.

The center is at 837 Spruce St.

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