Essex Child Center celebrates 40 years

Established in 1979 by Keith and Bernice Carlson and Wilbur and Joan Freed (Lewis), The Essex Child Center is celebrating its 40th anniversary. The Essex Chamber coffee would like to showcase the Essex Child Center by hosting an open house at the center from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., Monday, Feb. 17. During this time you can visit with the teachers, assistant director, director and current board members. 

In a press release sent out by Director of the Essex Community Club, Melissa Chambers, Chambers said Essex Child Center has been a presence in Essex and has been involved in so much in the community over the years and is one of the largest employers in Essex and what makes them stand out the most is the service they provide to families with their mission of providing a safe and caring environment for children.

The center started as one building and has expanded to four buildings with an outdoor play area. The center provides childcare for the community of Essex and surrounding areas for children six weeks up to 12 years of age and has a three-year-old preschool program.

Along with grants and donations from the community that help pay for expansions and other projects, the center holds fundraisers throughout the year to fund their school-age summer program. The children enrolled in the summer program take field trips to places such as The Henry Doorly Zoo, Omaha Children’s museum, Shenandoah swimming pool and Sports Plex at no extra cost to the parents.

In June, the center introduced a new app called “Brightwheel” that is used for parents to check their children in and out, staff clock-ins, and most importantly, it improves communication between teachers and families. The center received a grant to purchase an iPad for each room so that the teachers can access the app and send photos and videos to parents of their children throughout the day.

Director of Essex Child Center, Tonya Stoaks, has spent her entire life at the center.

“I was the first child to be enrolled in the center in 1979,” said Stoaks. “My mother, Barbie Huerter, was the first employee and worked at the center for 38 years. I worked here in high school and then started working here full time in 1998. I became the director seven years ago. When people ask me how long I have been here, I can literally say all my life.”

To continue celebrating their 40th anniversary, the center is hosting an annual spaghetti dinner from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m., Friday, April 3 at the Trojan Hall located in the Essex Community School. The community, former board members and directors are invited to attend.

Stoaks said the Essex Child Center is proud to be part of the Essex Community and she thanks everyone that has been involved in making the center a great success over the last 40 years.

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