In 1984, Grace Church undertook major renovations to the buildings. This idea was to enlarge the interior space to accommodate new office space, add a choir room, and provide a commons area. The Sanctuary was also reversed by placing the altar to the north, opening space for a Chapel at the South end and expanding the altar area. An elevator was also installed in the building to allow all three stories to be accessible.
Father Bob North, Rector, was very interested in having Grace Church provide outreach to both parishioners and townspeople by utilizing some of our new “vacant” rooms. The vision was to open a day care center for young children. A task force was appointed by the vestry, and the origins of Grace Church Infant Care Center were put in motion. As the task force moved forward, it was our intent to open as a day care center for infants as well as toddlers. There were no centers in Holland at the time that provided care for babies as young as six weeks of age given that there was some community resistance to mothers working outside of the home. Grace saw a need and responded.
Grace Church Infant Care Center opened with Denise Riley as the first director, and quickly grew into Grace Church Child Care Center (G4C) with a new director, Nancy Passimore. The Center grew from serving only infants and toddlers to accepting kids up through preschool age. Much work went into funding, furnishing, hiring, and training of staff to ensure inspections by health and safety experts were passed, and that laws governing everything from food service to the the placement of the outdoor play area were met. Enrollment continued to grow.
We received accreditation from the NAEYC (North Association for Education of Young Children) and were recognized by the Episcopal Church as a Jubilee Ministry in 2001. The G4C always offered scholarships for up to 30% of the enrollees. We consistently offered caregiver to child ratios of 1 to 3 for infants, 1 to 4 for toddlers up to 3 years, and 1 to 5 for preschoolers; the best standards for child care centers.
Early board members Bev Plagenhof, Treecy Borgman, Linda Elder, Paul Klenbaum, Peggy Keegin, Cindy Light, David Meier, Mary Rinks, Diane Christofferson, and Val McCoy were instrumental in supervising the core aspects of this outreach in its early years. High quality results were achieved by paying close attention to safety, staffing, interaction with children and parents, daily programing success, accountability, and accessibility between the staff and the G4C board.
The Grace Church Child Care Center was a first in the Holland community, reaching out to working moms when we saw a need, and supporting them for many years. As other centers began to open, the market got competitive and the need lessened. The cost of keeping up with Center building codes outpaced our ability to keep up and the church’s programs and Center were both growing in a building that could not expand. And so in 2006, we knew it was time to let go. The daycare center launched off site as its own non-profit separate from the ministries of Grace Church.
The G4C is something for which Grace can always be proud. Hundreds of infants, children, and families were served for over two decades by this important ministry.
Submitted by: Peg Keegin