Cassopolis church answers cutbacks with giving backPublished 1:08pm Thursday, December 10, 2009
By JESSICA SIEFF
The economy, though still fighting to get back to where it once was, remains far from a full recovery. And the effects have been seen with the shedding of jobs and businesses throughout the state and across the country.
The after-effects continue in tight knit communities like Cassopolis.
But at St. Paul Lutheran Church, a setback is answered with a step up.
“Unfortunately the economy has dealt us a blow, just like everyone else,” Pastor David Weiss said.
The church, which has offered day care onsite as part of its Open Arms Child Care Development Center at 305 W. State St. for 13 years, will be forced to close its infant care day care service.
Preschool and full after-school care for school age children will continue at the church but Weiss and his coordinator, Christi Molnar say that numbers of participants for each of those programs have dropped as well.
Aside from parents feeling the tightening of financial belts, Weiss said the decrease in the church’s day care population can also be attributed to an increase in unemployment – more parents out of work and at home to take care of children, friends or relatives out of work looking after each other’s kids without the need for outside care.
However, there are those, Weiss said, who still need after school care for their children. Parents who may have only found jobs keeping them at work later into the afternoon but are having a tough time affording it.
At the church, members showed how much they cared when donors put up enough money to provide for ten after-school care scholarships.
Weiss said those interested could contact the church to find out more about the scholarships available which would allow for 10 children to be dropped off to the church directly after school at no cost to parents.
The money donated to the church would “basically go toward having somebody here,” he said to run the after school care program.
The scholarships are “first come, first serve,” he said.
The contribution totaled approximately $1,400, which would provide for scholarships into the new year with a Dec. 1 start date.
Weiss said that church officials were “hoping that once the economy comes back to life,” day care would go back to normal.
Scholarships are strictly for after school care only.
Those children taking part in the program will have structured times for homework, play time, snack and a religious lesson. The day care is state licensed and workers are trained in CPR. Ages eligible for after school care are kindergarten to 12 years.
Weiss and Molnar said they used to see 15 to 20 children taking part in their day care or after school care programs and are down to five.
Those parents who simply can’t afford after school care may find comfort in the opportunity at the church.
“There may be kids who are going home and are too young,” Weiss said. “Who shouldn’t be going home by themselves and if we can help with that, we want to.”
After school care lasts from 3 to 6 p.m. and the church is an authorized school bus drop.
Molnar said she is also planning on putting up a giving tree, giving parents an opportunity to give back – the tree would be a way parents can donate materials such as crayons, paper, pencils, glue etc. for students taking part in the after school care program to use.
“We wish we could do more,” Weiss said.
Still the significance of the effort is not lost, an offer to help even as the church itself shows signs of hurting.