By Jona Ison, Business Development and Communications Coordinator, Goodwill of South Central Ohio
As the 2023-24 school year approached, Chelsea Seymour began thinking of re-entering the workforce. The Chillicothe resident knew she’d have some time during the day for the first time in a while – four of her five children would be in school. When she learned Goodwill of South Central Ohio was having a hiring event for an up-and-coming child care center, it seemed like the perfect opportunity, and Seymour was hired as an assistant teacher in the toddler room.
“It’s really flexible being able to bring him while I work, and he leaves when I do,” Seymour said.
Helping people re-enter the workforce was a key aspect of why Goodwill’s board and leadership team decided to pursue opening a child care center. CEO Marvin Jones and Board Chair Jim Hill attended an event in the Fall of 2022 put on by the Chillicothe-Ross Chamber of Commerce and Pickaway-Ross Career and Technology Center, where they heard from the state chamber about the huge need for child care across the state and its impact on the workforce.
“We also knew some of our employees who recently had a baby had a difficult time finding child care so they could return to work,” Jones said. “Even when child care is available, it’s also often unaffordable. Our goal with opening a child care center is to address both of these barriers to employment.”
A January report from the Department of Labor revealed Ross County families with a median household income of $60,417 spend 12 percent of their income to send an infant or toddler to a child care center each year. This means the nearly 13 percent of Ross County families living in poverty may be spending an even larger share of income on child care.
Opening a center was a dream come true for Goodwill Missions Coordinator Cana Horner who had long dreamed of adding child care to Goodwill’s list of mission services. The center received its state license in September and began providing services the following week. As the first Goodwill organization in the state to open a child care center, other Goodwills are eying the venture with great interest.
“It’s just amazing. We’re going to be looking at doing this in other counties,” Jones said. “It’s been a great initiative. I’m really, really proud we were able to do this.”
A huge help during the process was the Corporation for Ohio Appalachian Development (COAD) which consulted on every step of the process and assisted with paying for some things like background checks, cribs, and cots. COAD will continue to be an important partner, providing training and continued assistance as Goodwill explores opening additional centers.
Child care Administrative Assistant Denise Murphy and Lead Preschool Teacher Stacey Caressi both commented on the resources available to staff and children at the new center. Murphy has worked for 13 years in child care at three different child care centers and Caressi has worked at four different centers and has two children attending the center.
“The staff and management have been great from the top all the way. I can’t express how much that means,” Caressi said, noting it’s been a great work environment. “Everyone is down to help. It’s like we became instant best friends.”
Currently, the center, located on Western Avenue in Chillicothe, is licensed to service 44 children at one time and accepts both private and subsidized pay. Jones anticipates expanding the center into the rest of the building in 2024, which would increase that number to about 100.
“Everything has been going great since opening Sept. 18. It is a new adventure each day, and we are learning right along with the kids,” said child care Administrator Mary Anne Queen. “I love that the building has the sound of little ones all day long. One thing I have seen from day one is that each child brings a learning opportunity for my staff and me.”