By Debbie Eisenbise and Lorie Copeland
As we begin this new year, it is with great joy that Middlebury (Ind.) Church of the Brethren’s Little Lites Daycare Ministry celebrates receiving a “Build, Learn, Grow Stabilization” grant from Indiana’s Office of Early Childhood and Out-of-School Learning. The grant was made possible by funding that the state of Indiana received from the 2021 American Rescue Plan Act. Little Lites received $134,300–the amount of three months’ estimated expenses.
During 2022, Little Lites will use the funds for personnel costs, facility maintenance and improvements, and safety protocols related to the COVID-19 public health crisis. In particular, this grant will help Little Lites with staff retention and off-set increased costs of gloves and face masks, etc. Some other anticipated projects include replacing worn carpet with vinyl flooring to make cleaning easier, the installation of a washer and a dryer so that crib sheets and blankets can be laundered on the premises, and setting up a need-based scholarship fund.
The Middlebury Church opened Little Lites in June 2017 to serve the community, particularly neighbors with childcare needs due to employment in the local RV industry. Blessed with a large physical plant, and lovely grounds including two playgrounds and a nature trail, the congregation felt that these were gifts from God to be shared with the community.
Currently, 95 children from 82 families are served, and there is a waiting list, so the need is critical for our community. Daycare and after-school and out-of-school care are provided for newborns through children up to age 12 from 4:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. The church employs 14 to 17 staff to run the daycare. The congregation strives to keep wages and benefits competitive while providing affordable, quality childcare.
Along with holding families and staff in prayer, congregation members (mostly before the current pandemic) volunteer and also support Little Lites with donations. The Christmas trees in our sanctuary this past December were covered with paper mittens made by daycare children. Each mitten listed a need for Little Lites and/or the local food pantry. Dolls, trucks, books, tissues, Lysol, and snacks were collected for the daycare.
The mission statement of Little Lites Daycare Ministry is “to do everything with excellence. We pledge to walk with families to help raise, teach and love the future generation. We believe in the value and uniqueness of each child we serve. Our childcare program is designed to promote the social, physical, emotional, and cognitive development of each child.” Our vision is “to be the hands and feet of Christ in caring for the children who have been entrusted to our care.”
Those interested in supporting Little Lites or getting on the waiting list for care, please call 574-312-5369.
— This article was submitted to Newsline by Middlebury board chair and treasurer Lorie Copeland, who is the business manager for Little Lites, and interim pastor Debbie Eisenbise.
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