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Center fills neighborhood need

The bright red six-passenger stroller is getting to be a familiar sight in the East Hillside/Endion neighborhood. The unusual conveyance and its cargo of toddlers represent an important new service to families. It's the most visible symbol of the...

The bright red six-passenger stroller is getting to be a familiar sight in the East Hillside/Endion neighborhood.
The unusual conveyance and its cargo of toddlers represent an important new service to families.
It's the most visible symbol of the Little Treasures Center, a new licensed nonprofit child care facility.
Tucked in the basement of the Human Development Center is the brightly remodeled care environment for infants and toddlers.
It's furnishing and equipment were inspired by other child care operations and tempered by funding constraints and safely requirements.
In addition to the special stroller, there are toys, books and games for learning and enjoyment. Even the hand sink is at toddler height.
There is also a small kitchen for preparing home-cooked meals.
A qualified and enthusiastic director and staff, including a full-time teacher, complete the mix.
While Little Treasures was developed by St. Paul's Episcopal Church, numerous other organizations have been involved in its planning and funding.
"There have been a lot of contributions from a lot of different places," said director Peg Johnson, who researched the business for a year and a half before getting the center off the ground.
Her role at the center reflects a highly vested concern for the total operation. A visitor might find her working on a grant application or rocking a fussy baby to sleep.
Johnson emphasized that Little Treasures is "more than day care." The center actually provides an enhanced child care service that will include education and supportive experiences for families.
"We want to take care of the young children, but at the same time we recognize how important it is to reach out to the entire family," she said. "We believe the entire community can benefit from the services here."
Little Treasures can care for up to 12 toddlers and six infants. And right now there are openings.
"We have lots of room for toddlers (ages 18 to 33 months), " she said. "The need in the neighborhood was for more infant care."
And though it was designed to serve the neighborhood, others are welcome.
At its recent dedication, the center hosted some of its funding partners, along with city officials, neighborhood parents and children.
"Children are one of most precious assets of any community," said Mayor Gary Doty. "As more parents find jobs and the need for child care increases, all of us -- government, the religious community, foundations, corporations and community developers -- must come together to fill this need.
"Little Treasures Center is a wonderful example of this collaboration."
"As more people enter the work force, the need for child care becomes obvious," said Marta Maddy, St. Paul's Neighborhood Partnership coordinator. "We seek to remove one big barrier to employment in this neighborhood by taking care of children."
The opening of Little Treasures is a continuation of the city's growth in child care providers. It is a need that has been targeted by several agencies, including Duluth's Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC).
"This is the second child care center in Duluth LISC has assisted that has opened, and two more are in the works," said Pam Kramer, LISC program director. "The YWCA Early Childhood Center has been a wonderful asset, and we are sure Little Treasures will build on that success.
"We are very excited to be a partner in this much-needed child care facility."
For more information on Little Treasures, call 728-2044.

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