KeepHealthCare.ORG – Churches invest in faith-based education | In Today’s Daily Sun
OXFORD — Julie Bedard is looking forward to August and a new beginning.
The director of Amazing Grace Lutheran Church’s new child care facility is preparing for about 50 babies and toddlers to attend the Oxford church’s newest ministry.
This is just one example of new or expanding faith-based child care and education facilities that give local parents more options.
The leaders of Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Fruitland Park have decided to expand its school for middle-school and high-school students with four additional classrooms this fall.
North Lake Presbyterian Church’s Little Blessings Christian Child Care Center is celebrating 20 years of providing faith-based child care to Lady Lake-area families.
One facility is new, one is growing and one is celebrating a major milestone and continued growth, but what these facilities have in common is Christianity in the curriculum.
“We will use regular age-based instruction, with an additional faith-based program,” Bedard said. “We help children develop social and emotional skills based on God’s love and forgiveness.”
Both early learning centers provide Voluntary Prekindergarten, or VPK, instruction.
At Amazing Grace, there will be time each day for the children to hear Bible stories, pray and sing, and they will visit the chapel once a week, Bedard said.
“We work from the mindset that every child is unique and a creation of God,” Bedard said. “We meet the child as God created them.”
Church leaders began planning the ministry in 2016 to help provide child care for working families moving to the area because of the continued expansion of The Villages.
“The choices for child care in north Sumter County are limited,” Bedard said. “Many of the existing facilities have wait lists.”
While Bedard said bringing young families to the church would be an added benefit, the child care ministry is not about that.
“It is to give parents a safe, loving place for their children to learn and grow,” she said.
She said she is excited about the school’s opening in a couple months. Everything is new, from the building to the furnishings to the playground and landscaping.
“The congregation here is so supportive of this ministry,” Bedard said.
The building, the furnishings and startup will cost about $900,000.
“When the center opens in August, it will be debt-free thanks to the generosity and support of the church,” she said. “Everyone is involved. I have volunteers who want to rock the babies, or to help with the toddlers — it is so exciting to be a part of this.”
Holy Trinity recognized the need for a faith-based school for children with learning challenges in 1997 and opened the Holy Trinity Episcopal School.
The school serves about 30 students, and school leaders plan to double the student base during the next seven to 10 years, said the Rev. Nancy Bryson, school director.
The curriculum focuses on three areas: faith, character and knowledge, and it is based on each individual student’s level of need, she said.
North Lake Presbyterian Church established Little Blessings Christian Child Care Center to serve Lady Lake families, and its curriculum is intended to ensure the children are ready for school.
“Our facility gives parents a choice,” said Linda Brown, Little Blessings director. “Some parents want their children to attend a facility based on Christian values.”
Little Blessings opened in 1998 with 14 children. It has grown to serve 130 children and will celebrate 20 years in September with a special event that is still in the planning stages.
“It’s been a wonderful 20 years,” Brown said. “Some of my first children are parents now, and I have the privilege of caring for their children.”
Patricia Steele is a senior writer with The Villages Daily Sun. She can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5387, or [email protected]