After 30 years, St. Olaf’s closes its child care center
By MEGAN STEPHENSON
June 29, 2012 · Updated 11:37 AM
POULSBO — Despite having a strong family-based support system, St. Olaf Catholic Church’s childcare center couldn’t beat today’s biggest hurdle: the economy.
After 30 years, because of decline in revenue and donations, St. Olaf’s closed its child care and early learning center Friday. About seven employees are losing jobs.
“I’m heartbroken,” said Denise Schairer, a 30-year employee. She said she’s seen babies from 30 years ago bring in their own children to learn and play at the center.
“There was always an emphasis on education,” she said. The center hosted an open house Saturday, where former employees, parents and children could reminisce. Children, oblivious to the adults’ bittersweet feelings, monkeyed around in the playroom. By the end of their visit, the kids were passed around from lap to lap to say goodbye.
Director Christine Willeford said it was a combination of factors that led to this day: families losing jobs no longer needing full-time childcare, and the decline in donations from the center’s benefactor, Catholic Community Services. Everyone is feeling the same pinch, she said.
Although the center was founded by parishioners, Willeford said about 90 percent of the patrons are children from around the community.
“We’re not just babysitting kids while [parents] are at work,” Willeford said. “We really see it as a family center.”
St. Olaf’s was one of three smaller child care centers in the county, licensed to care for about 40 children. Willeford said a lot of parents were upset, knowing they’d have to send their children to larger centers.
Cindy Faragalli has sent all three of her children to St. Olaf’s. Her youngest, Amber, is 3, and will now go to a center in Bremerton.
Faragalli said she appreciated the family approach. At parent advisory meetings, they talked about the programs and activities they wanted for their children, and the center would offer a “parent’s night out” every once and awhile.
“It was a mix of shock — it’s been around so long — and sadness,” she said when she heard the closure news. “I think we all know the way the economy is going. The center has been affected.”
Contact North Kitsap Herald Megan Stephenson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-779-4464.