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Last summer Children’s Center kids enjoyed the company of three big kid volunteers. Pictured are, top row, from left to right, Jordan Wood, Pete Freeman, Makayla Douglas, Isaac Grushon, Malaya Booth and Jonah Kintner. Bottom row, Isabelle Ellis and volunteers Ben Green, Cory Thompson and Daniel Collett. Children’s Center substitute teacher Andrea Hutson is in top row, back.

Run, walk for kids’ center

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Most daycare centers raise their rates from 3 to 5 percent a year, according to Marlin Newell, director of the Community Children’s Center of Yellow Springs. But even in these trying economic times, the Children’s Center, which has raised rates only twice in the past five years, has decided against increasing fees.

“We want Yellow Springs and the surrounding area to have high-quality, affordable day care,” Newell said in an interview last week.

But the recession has impacted the center. Most noticeably, the United Way’s annual donation of about $41,000 dropped to $30,000 this year after that campaign failed to meet its annual goal, so the center is struggling to find ways to fill the gap in its $400,000 annual budget.

Consequently, this year’s Yellow Springs Street Fair 5K Fun Run fundraiser is taking on special importance. The event, the third annual to benefit the center, aims to raise several thousand for the cause, according to organizer Margie Clonch. More runners are welcome, as are walkers of every variety, including parents with strollers, elders with walkers or anyone else who wants to support the center. Volunteers are also needed.

The event begins at 9 a.m. on Saturday, June 13, at the Antioch Theater on Corry Street. Runners will head north on the bike path through downtown Yellow Springs toward Ellis Pond, then turn around before ending back at the theater. Yoga Springs will offer participants cool-down stretches after the race at about 10 a.m. on the stage at Bryan Center. Soon after, the Corn Daddies will entertain and winners will be announced at 11.

Sponsors of the event are the Yellow Springs Chamber of Commerce, Antioch University, Peach’s Grill, Ha Ha Pizza, AC Service, McGohan Brabender and the Dayton Dragons.

Registration is $20, and forms may be downloaded from the Chamber Web site, For information, contact the center at 767-7236 or Clonch at 768-5036.

The center is in ways other than financial doing well, Newell said. It’s enjoying an increase in the number of children served, up to 72 children from recent enrollments in the 60s.

“There’s been a steady climb in enrollment,” Newell said. “We have new families in town.”

But to serve those children, the center needs to tend to its aging building, and to do that, it is launching a capital campaign. The building’s needs include replacing three of its five furnaces. The furnaces malfunctioned last winter and the “gas bill fluctuated wildly,” Newell said.

The center also needs new fencing, since the old fence is rusted, and a licensing specialist recommended that the floor tiles, which are cracking, should be removed. Future needs include replacing the roof on the center’s south side.

The estimated total cost of repairs is about $90,000, according to Newell. While the Morgan Family Foundation has kicked in $15,000, the Yellow Springs Community Foundation has contributed $10,000 and the Vernay Foundation donated its remaining balance of $38,000 when the foundation shut down last year, there is still a significant shortfall.

A dedicated runner, Clonch has for years thought that the Yellow Springs Street Fair and a 5K run fundraiser were a natural combination. Area runners attend 5K races almost every weekend in good weather, she said, and would surely enjoy attending the street fair after they finish their race. And the street fair benefits from having more participants.

As to the beneficiary of the event, Clonch didn’t have to think hard. Even though her two sons are mainly grown, she still feels loyal to the Children’s Center as the daycare and after-school center where, as a single parent, she knew they received high quality care and caring attention.

“I never had to worry about them there,” she said. “It was a good, stable place where they also had fun, going to the Glen or to the pool. Some of their best memories are of times they spent at the Children’s Center.”

Begun more than 60 years ago on land donated by the Vernet family, the Community Children’s Center was launched by villagers who saw a need for quality local day care for young children. The center, which cares for children aged 18 months through 10 years old, uses a play-based philosophy with a wide variety of “open-ended materials and experiences,” according to a center brochure. Activities are presented to children with a focus on process rather than an expectation from an adult for a “finished or correct product,” the brochure says, saying the center strives to create a homelike atmosphere for children.

The center recently was pleased to find out that it will receive a single star rating from the Step Up to Quality program of the Job and Farm Services, a new effort to identify childcare centers with excellent staff and programs. The award is linked to the center’s programming quality and the educational level of its staff and administrators, Newell said.

In her 20th year at the center, Newell began as a teaching aide in the toddler program before she became a program teacher, and then the director five years ago.

Current Children’s Center board members are Lara Bentley, Matt Grushon, Brian Keller, Kathleen Moore, Norm Glismann, Wendy Shemano, Lisa Spar, Lorrie Sparrow and Terri Thompson.

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