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Dayton parish partners with YMCA in childcare program

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Dec. 10, 2010
By David Eck
DAYTON DEANERY — In the rooms of the former convent at St. Anthony Parish in east Dayton there are rows of baby cribs, tiny chairs and tables, and playmats for infants.
Those items aren’t typically found in most parish facilities, but they are tools of a new childcare ministry that St. Anthony Parish began during the past year. Now the building houses the St. Anthony/YMCA Childcare Development Center, a childcare program available 11 hours each weekday that can accommodate children from six weeks old through elementary school age. 

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There are currently 53 children in the program, including five infants, and the center has the capacity for up to 146 total children.
The childcare operation is a partnership between the parish and the Greater Dayton YMCA.  The parish renovated and provides space, while the YMCA operates the program and hires the employees.
“We came to a wonderful working agreement,” said Father Chris Coleman, pastor at St. Anthony. “This was cutting edge. This was a bold move to take care of this neighborhood.”
The parish had offered childcare for years, but Father Coleman 
St. Anthony Parish pastor Father Chris Coleman holds 4-month-old Donavan Manning-Scott in the parish’s childcare center. Attendant Mary Loper holds Elijah Sumlin, 16 months.   
realized the program needed to be restructured. The program was taking up too many parish resources, wasn’t an operation that the parish could run efficiently and wasn’t functional, he said.
But scrapping the program would not have been in the community’s best interest.
“I saw the value in providing daycare,” Father Coleman said. “[Parents] need to have a quality, safe, nurturing program for their children.”
He sought out Debbie Nerderman, director of childcare services at the YMCA, and the two worked out the details. The YMCA, Father Coleman said, has the resources and expertise to make a daycare center at the parish viable. The two organizations also have compatible missions.
The YMCA hired the four parish employees who ran the former program and added four more. St. Anthony Parish spent about $300,000 renovating the former convent to accommodate the children, while the YMCA invested $160,000 in equipment. The organizations entered into a five-year contract for the operation.
The pre-school and school-aged children are located in two classrooms in the parish school, and all children in the program receive educational services.
“We have a curriculum that we use,” Nerderman said. “Even with the eight-week-olds, we do lesson plans, assessments and screenings to make sure they’re at the proper developmental level.”
The arrangement works well for the YMCA, which had been looking to establish a presence in east Dayton for years, Nerderman said, where options for childcare are limited.
Providing infant and toddler day care at the parish makes it convenient for parents who also have older children attending St. Anthony School, Father Coleman said. As an added benefit, pre-school students in the daycare program attend weekly Mass with the schoolchildren. The daycare program also acts as a feeder for the parish school.
“You have to market to your folks,” Father Coleman said. “If we’re going to start evangelizing in east Dayton they have to come to church.”
David Eck can be reached at [email protected].
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