At a Georgia day care center, older neighbors find purpose, connection

Little Steps Community Daycare in rural Georgia has transformed the lives of children, parents, and senior volunteers.

J. Scott Nimtz/Courtesy of Encore.org
Cecil Dorsey helps a preschooler at Little Steps Community Daycare.

This essay is part of an occasional series provided by our partner organization Encore.org, which created the Generation to Generation (Gen2Gen) campaign, inviting those in midlife and beyond to connect with young people who need champions.

About two years ago Lindsey McCamy, leader of a nonprofit in rural Georgia that helps homeless and low-income families, sat in a meeting with the United Way, listening to community members talk about the lack of affordable day care.

Multitasking on a grant proposal with an encroaching deadline, Ms. McCamy had a lightbulb go on in her mind.

“I grabbed the United Way director and told her about this idea my colleagues and I had been discussing to open a free, temporary day care at a community center that was currently being underutilized by the housing authority,” she says. The old brick building was surrounded by apartments housing 37 adults over the age of 62 who were disabled, low income, or both.

The idea was well received, so Ms. McCamy, executive director of Family Promise of Hall County, made it her grant proposal – and she got the funding she needed. Since August 2017, Little Steps Community Daycare has provided over 130 children, ages 6 weeks to 5 years, with good child care for up to 12 weeks – a period when the parents are taking steps to achieve independence.

The center is a triple win, transforming the lives of three generations at once. The children get attentive care from staff members and volunteers. Parents have time to interview for jobs, attend classes, or do other things to get back on their feet. And the center’s older neighbors find connection and purpose.

Family Promise is one of Encore.org’s Gen2Gen campaign partners.

Audrey Simonds, a parent who dropped her child off at the center, was grateful. “Little Steps provided clean, safe, and consistent child care in our family’s time of need,” she says. “Without their help, I wouldn’t have been able to look for and establish employment.”

Danielle Latlippe, who runs the center, knows a bit about what the parents are going through. “In 2013 my husband lost his job; we lost our house and our car and ended up finding Family Promise of Hall County,” she says.

“I know a lot of parents come in here feeling negative and like they won’t make it through this,” she continues. “They might have kids around the same age as my children were when we went through a similar program, and I’m able to say I do understand and we did make it to the other side.”

Little Steps has also been changing the lives of many of the older adults living next door. They know that the center is open from 6:30 a.m. until 6 p.m. and frequently stop by to hold the babies, play with the children, and even eat breakfast.

“Every Wednesday morning, we have a local cafe that donates breakfast for us,” Ms. McCamy explains. “Originally we were just planning to feed the kids, but then we had so much food we invited the community of older adults. ... They come to eat with the kids, and they help feed the kids breakfast.”

Some neighbors have taken on more formal volunteer roles. Vicky Castillo, who cares for her disabled husband, helps out about 30 hours a week.

“Little Steps has given my life great purpose,” she says. “It’s a good feeling to know that I am able to help the staff and children so much. Volunteering at Little Steps, I’m able to have something great to look forward to each day. It brings me such joy.”

A day care center that serves parents’ temporary needs is important, but Ms. Latlippe says she’s hoping for a more comprehensive arrangement, too. She’s looking into creating a day care center in the building that offers a sliding scale for low-income families and allows children to stay for years.

For more, visit familypromisehall.org/little-steps-community-day-care.

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