Child Care Center celebrates renovations with ribbon cutting
Celebrating the re-opening of Morristown Hamblen Day Care Center on Kennedy Drive are first row from left, Karen Crumley, Morristown Area Chamber of Commerce ambassador; Michelle Jones, MH daycare board member; Leslie Hoskins and Bill Andrews, Andrews Construction; Cathy Scott, MH Day Care board member; Judy Brasher-Hopkins, MH Day Care director; Marilyn Medley, Morristown Housing Authority executive director; Tina Collins, Hofner designer; Randy Debord, Morristown Area Chamber of Commerce chairman; Kristina Veit and Leslie Beach, Chamber ambassadors. Second row from left, Jill Lee, Elaine Jackson and Sherri McFarland, MH Day Care pre-school teachers; Jim Wills, MH Day Care board chair; Bruce Wiltsey, Marketing Associates Plus Inc. and James Ray, architect, Barge Cauten and Associates. In the background are Leigh Shepherd, MHA deputy director; Tammy Morton, MH Day Care pre-school teacher; Tim Goins, Hamblen County commissioner; Harold Knight, MHA commissioner; Susie Washington, MHA commissioner; Mike Giles, Morristown HA commissioner; Kay Senter, Morristown City Council; Rick Rogers, Barge, Cauthen and Associates, Jeff Green, MHA operations director and Rex Orick, Barge, Cauthen and Associates.
Roles were reversed on Sept. 18 at the newly renovated Child Care Center operated by Morristown Housing Authority and Morristown-Hamblen Child Care and Early Intervention.
Usually it’s the kids who play while those in charge are away, but on this occasion a large crowd of adults swarmed the cheerfully decorated rooms of the center just before it was re-opened to its young inhabitants.
The celebrants included Morristown Area Chamber of Commerce staff and volunteer ambassadors, MHA board members, M-H Child Care Center board members, child care center staff, representatives of local government and those who participated in the renovation.
Right in the middle of things was director Judy Brasher-Hopkins, who has been a part of the center since 1986, or as she described it, “since before cell phones, computers and even fax machines.”
By her side was Jim Wills, who serves as chairman of the board of directors of Morristown Hamblen Child Care Center.
“Today we’re taking a giant step backwards to go forwards,” Wills said. “I say that because 50 years ago, Morristown Hamblen Childcare Center, although we did not yet have that name, was started by a women’s group here in town.
“They did so in a small, renovated house that would drive DHS absolutely up the wall today, as far as licensing is concerned. But the kids survived and they thrived. They started it because they saw the need for a safe place for children of low-income families to go and learn and be safe while parents worked.”
A volunteer board was established to oversee the daily operations, and remained in place for a few years before administrative personnel were hired. Relying on local and state funding, United Way, and contributions, the agency expanded and a second location was opened in 1970. The agency also began serving children with disabilities as well as children from low-income families.
“We’re still volunteers and continue to serve this organization as it serves the community, county and the city,” Wills said.
“Since that time, we have grown out of a little frame house,” Wills said. “We have changed direction in the services that we provide. Back then, it really was daycare, a safe place, babysitting. We did not the have the direction we have gone in now.”
Wills said at one time, the infant center, the center for special needs children and the 1970 facility (on Cherokee Drive) each required prepared food, snacks, cleaning and staff supervision, which caused “all types of logistic problems.”
Acknowledging MHA Executive Director Marilyn Medley and MHA board members present, Wills said, “You have renovated this for us and by doing so have fulfilled the dreams of this board. The fact that you have done this for us, enlarged this building and playground, we’re very appreciative of it.
Wills said, “We’re excited about being able to move back into this building and excited about having the services here and all in one location. This is not just daycare. We provide early intervention and services for developmentally delayed children and at-risk children. We’ve got physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy; and this is not only done in-house. We have three staff members who work in homes with the children. There is a staff of 11 on site, and I can’t say enough about them and what they have done.
“The quality of our program is, I think, now reflected in the building that we have,” Wills said.
Morristown Hamblen Child Care Center is located at 908 Kennedy Circle, in the C. Frank Davis Homes Extension. The renovations were funded by a Capital Fund Program Grant sponsored by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Just one of the numerous projects the MHA Board of Commissioners has undertaken during the leadership of Medley and Board Chairman William J. Blackburn, the remodeling of the center was completed by Andrews Construction Inc. of Talbott. Renovations include a new roof, donated by Metro Roof Products, new energy efficient doors and windows, high efficiency HVAC, upgraded playground, new landscaping and a colorful new interior design. The additional 1,400 square feet of space made it possible to combine the infant and toddler center and the preschool center in one location.
The non-profit agency provides developmental child care for children from low-income families (ages 6 weeks to 5 years) and early intervention services (home-based and center-based) for ages from infant to 3 years. Center-based children receive breakfast, lunch and a snack daily. Tuition is based on a sliding fee scale determined by the state certificate program.
The agency has earned a 3-star rating from the state licensing assessment evaluators since the rating system was implemented more than 10 years ago. The volunteer board of directors still advises and makes decisions regarding the goals and policies of the agency. A staff of 11 center-based employees and three home-based early interventionists provide services for 60-70 children. For information about enrollment, call 423-587-3001.
-By Glenna Howington, Tribune Staff Writer