Karyn VanRyzin is committed to making sure giving back remains a priority for Community Child Care Center. As director of the organization located in Kimberly, she said giving back is part of their identity.
“Our name is community and we make sure we’re following through,” she said. “That’s why we have supportive employment and we are hosts to parent cafes.”
The agency is a supportive employment work site for Valley Packaging Industries and is one of the organizations that sponsors parent cafés. A parent café is a program based on peer-to-peer support that is facilitated by parents and held at the childcare center. After parents and children have a meal together, the agency provides free childcare while the parents build supportive networks with their peers through roundtable discussions.
The agency also works with students from Kimberly High School in the early childhood program.
Another way the agency supports the community is during its Christmas program. Proceeds from this major fundraiser go toward Families in Transition Scholarships that support families in crisis or in transition.
“We had a parent who had a small child with disabilities and the parent was diagnosed with cancer,” VanRyzin said. “She couldn’t care for her child and go through cancer treatments at the same time. She still needed child care, but she didn’t have income, so we could pay up to $1,000 for the child care expenses to get that family through.”
The mission of Community Child Care Center is to provide high quality early childhood education and care to children ages six weeks through 12 years.
The center is licensed for 65 children and has a long waiting list for the infants and toddlers program. It is the only 5-star rated nonprofit childcare center in the Heart of the Valley, VanRyzin said.
She said there is a big shortage for infant and toddler care in the Fox Valley.
“It’s hard to find infant and toddler teachers who are qualified,” she said. “You need one teacher per four children. It’s costly to provide care to the little ones.”
The organization’s priority is providing high quality early childhood care and education.
“If a child needs some extra help to be successful in group child care, we will devote staff time and expertise into helping that child,” she said.
The Wisconsin Department of Children and Families sites studies that report children who experience engaging, one-on-one activities and safe, healthy and nurturing learning environments have a better chance at lifelong success. They are more likely to graduate from high school and less likely to engage in criminal activity or participate in special education programs. They often earn higher wages throughout their lifetime.
Carol Bloemer, director of the Retired & Senior Volunteer 55+ Program, understands the importance of having caring adults in children’s lives. Over the last decade, 169 RSVP volunteers have served in volunteer roles connected directly to youth.
“Some have been readers through the First Book program, some are mentors and tutors, several served meals at Kids Café at the Boys and Girls Club and for years we had BABES Puppet Club in the schools,” she said. “We can’t put an exact number on the lives that have been touched by a kind word, the time spent together, and the difference made by just showing up and caring.”
Just in the past year, 57 RSVP volunteers have served directly with youth in the Fox Cities, including at Community Childcare Center. The organization currently is looking for volunteers to help in a variety of creative ways, from pruning shrubs to taking down shelving.
“We’re always looking for people to help us stay organized,” VanRyzin said, “like toy storage areas, puzzles, building blocks, all of the things they use in the classroom. We have one man who retired and he comes in to do a little maintenance for us, which is very helpful. We have someone who comes in and reads to the children.”
The center is looking for volunteers who could help with special events, such as the Christmas program. Folks who could arrive before the program to prepare and serve the meal, along with setting up tables and cleaning would be ideal. This would allow staff to focus on the program. She also said the center is a great place to unleash creative skills.
“We would love some creative minds to help set up some different fun areas on our playground,” she said. “If there are some retired educators or naturalists who are into science and understand children who would like to share their experience and create a science exploration area or water works play area, they are so much fun for kids to explore.”