New daycare/preschool aims to ease community need


Tracy Hefley will direct Kids Connection, a new daycare and preschool program set to open Monday, Aug. 11. Her children, 1-year-old Cooper and Reese, 4, will be among the more than 35 participants in the new program. Kids Connection, a not-for-profit organization, is housed in the Hillsboro Mennonite Brethren Church at 300 Prairie Pointe.

Working parents in the Hillsboro area will have another option for sending their children to daycare when Kids Connec?tion opens its doors next week.

Kids Connection launches its daycare services Monday, Aug. 11. Preschool classes will begin Monday, Aug. 18.

Director Tracy Hefley and her staff will be there to welcome the children.

?I?m so ready, so ready to start,? said Hefley, who brings a degree in early childhood and 10 years of experience in daycare and preschool to her new position.

?I?m just really excited to get back into the classroom to work with the preschool age. They can absorb so much that it?s exciting for them to learn.?

Located at the Hillsboro Men?nonite Brethren Church in the Prairie Pointe addition, Kids Connection will gear its state-licensed daycare program toward ages 12 months through 12 years.

Most children enrolled in daycare will be there all day, said Hefley, who recently ran a home-based daycare for four years. Daycare hours will run from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Children will be divided according to age groups and do age-appropriate activities, which will involve some curriculum, she said, such as colors, shapes, numbers and letter recognition for younger children.

Preschool program

Hefley said preschool classes will be more structured, with a curriculum that includes elements of reading, writing, art, math and science.

?We?ll be working with the 4- and 5-year-olds to get them ready for kindergarten next year,? she said.

Initially, Kids Connection will offer three pre-school classes?one for 3-year-olds and two for 4- and 5-year-olds?that meet twice weekly from 8:15 a.m. to 11:15 a.m.

?All of the kids will work on positive self-esteem and self-image, social skills, self-expression and communication skills, creative expression, large and small muscle skills and intellectual growth,? Hefley said.

Hefley developed the curriculum using online resources.

?The curriculum will be Christian-based, ? she said, explaining that biblical aspects, such as verses and stories from the Bible, will be integrated into the curriculum.

?A lot of our letter recognition and writing of letters is based on (Bible story) characters and words,? she said.

For example, in learning letters, ?B is for Bible? and the children may color the picture of a Bible, she said.

As of Aug. 4, the preschool had a couple openings remaining, Hefley said, and Kids Connection is still accepting applications for daycare.

Hefley?s staff includes Tiffany Miller, Brenda Sechrist, Tammy Wintermote, Melinda Banning, Emma Banning and Lori Espada.

Rising from ashes

The seed for Kids Connection began to germinate after the Hillsboro MB church fire in March 2004.

?One of the things we did soon after the fire was to pull together a congregational task force to dream about this unique opportunity we had to begin new ministries that serve our community,? said Don Ratzlaff, church moderator. ?The idea of day care and preschool surfaced very quickly, given the need in the Hillsboro area.?

Kim Klein, past owner of Lucky Ducks Daycare Center that operated in Hillsboro for seven years, volunteered to serve on the task force charged to work on the project.

?We worked with that about nine months to a year, brainstorming until we finally got to the point where we were ready to hand it over to someone,? Klein said.

A board of directors was formed for Kids Connection, with Klein serving as its chair, and includes Fran Rhodes, Janet Hein, Sharon Jost and Robin Ediger. Marion Regier serves as the board?s ex officio member and financial officer for Kids Connection.

After the board decided to offer both daycare and preschool, Hefley was hired for the position as director. She, together with the board, interviewed applicants for the staff positions.

Klein said she was pleased the board found Hefley, who brings credentials and experience to the position.

?She seemed like a perfect fit for us,? Klein said. ?She?s come in with a lot of knowledge and information and has built (the program) from the ground up. We all work together to get what we need, but she?s in charge making things happen.?

Fee schedule

Daycare cost is $25 for children 12 months to 21⁄2 years and $20 for ages 21⁄2 and older. Kids Connection charges $75 per month for preschool.

?We are accepting SRS payment with a Vision card,? Klein said, adding that the church is providing some funds for scholarships for those with financial needs.

?We really want to make it available to lower-income families in the community. That?s one of our goals to make (daycare) available for those who can?t afford it. If you need the service, we?re going to try and work with you and make it available.?

Community centered

At its core, the vision for Kids Connection is to be community-centered.

?We acknowledge all the support we?ve received from the church?the space, equipment and dollars to get us started,? Klein said. ?We?re a Christian-based daycare and that will be our foundation, but are a separate legal entity (from the church). You do not have to attend our church or be a church-attender to come.?

Hillsboro Mayor Delores Dalke welcomes the services Kids Connection will offer to the community.

?We have had such a shortage for daycare?for either single parents or families with two working parents,? Dalke said. ?It?s become almost impossible for them to find daycare. Con?sequently, parents have had to work separate shifts in order to try to take care of the children.

?As a community we have to be very pleased that the church did see this as a mission and a way they could help the community.?

Volunteers welcomed

Hefley said that in addition to its staff, volunteers will provide services to support the program.

?We have some volunteers lined up to come in and read to the kids and help out in the classroom,? she said, adding that other opportunities are available to suit people?s schedules.

?I would like the community to become involved,? Hefley said.

Volunteers are welcome to participate as schedules allow.

?We want parents, businesses, all different ages to become involved,? she added. ?This is for the community.?


For more information about Kids Connection or opportunities to volunteer, contact Tracy Hefley at 947-3004 or e-mail

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