CHILDCARE: New program a welcome relief for families

COLUMBIA CITY ­ — Monday marked a new beginning for the Whitley County YMCA. The Early Learning Center opened its doors to serve as Whitley County’s newest childcare program.The YMCA opened its new childcare program in response to the recent surprise closing of Stepping Stones day care.According to YMCA Executive Director Erica Miller, offering the program was a natural fit for the YMCA.“It’s the YMCA’s mission to meet the needs of the community and we saw the need to have a childcare program.”The new program held a Sunday open house to welcome families and children to its location at New Hope Wesleyan Church. Debbie Gates, the center’s director, shared her enthusiasm for the new program. “We are excited for the new possibilities that will come out of this move. We’ve been working hard to get settled in and trying to make this a smooth transition for the families.”Parents brought their children into the church to see classrooms equipped for yesterday’s opening. Thirteen staff members, formerly employed with Stepping Stones, are now working as YMCA employees. “The church here has been great to work with. They’ve done whatever was necessary to make us feel at home,”said Gates.Members of New Hope Wesleyan Church were on hand Sunday to direct families as they came in. Church leaders agreed that the opportunity to serve the community through this new childcare program was one they didn’t want to pass up.Miller said that the childcare service is open to the community and not limited to YMCA members.