McLouth Church of the Nazarene starts up new daycare
Buying a building to open a church-operated daycare is a leap of faith, says McLouth minister David Showalter.
"We don't have any idea what the need base is, but the church is committed to making it work, whether there's 30 children or there's 60," said Showalter, who is pastor at McLouth Church of the Nazarene.
On Jan. 3, the Nazarene church will open Open Arms Christian Daycare and Preschool. The center is in downtown McLouth, in the 6,000-square-foot building formerly known as the YES Learning Center.
The church is inviting the public to an open house from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday at the center, 109 N. Union.
Tonganoxie resident Susan Weston, who previously has operated the Tonganoxie Nazarene Church's daycare, will run the McLouth daycare.
Weston lives in Tonganoxie with her husband, Mike Weston, and their children.
She has 17 years in daycare business, having operated a home-based daycare when her children were young, and then becoming director of the Heartland Community Church of the Nazarene's daycare when it opened in 1999.
At Heartland, Weston and her staff could care for 52 children at a time and had an enrollment of 70. Leah Shockey took over as director of the Heartland center after Weston accepted the McLouth position.
Since leaving Heartland last month, Weston has been busy getting the new daycare center ready for business.
That's meant giving the walls a fresh coat of paint, with help from church volunteers and family members, including her parents, Carl and Beatrice Hilton, who live in Oskaloosa.
And it's meant taking inventory and cleaning everything in the building. When the church purchased the former YES center, it came complete with the contents, including furniture, toys and even dishes in the kitchen cupboards.
Weston said she's heard interest from a few parents about sending their children to the daycare, and she's hoping that as January approaches, more calls will come in.
Starting small is an option the church is ready to accept, Weston said.
"I know things will work out," Weston said. "I know it's going to be hard. ... But I know it takes time and I know it will work out."
Showalter said that getting to this point -- and getting through red tape -- has not been easy because the building was owned by the federal government.
Before settling on the idea of negotiating a price for the building, Showalter said, church members inquired whether the government would donate the building to the city of McLouth. When that didn't work out, church members decided to buy the building.
"We prayed and we worked on it for about seven or eight months and spent hundreds and hundreds of hours negotiating with them," the pastor said.
According to the Jefferson County appraiser's office the building is appraised at $264,700. However, after months of work, the church negotiated a purchase price of $160,000, and took out a bank loan to finance the transaction, Showalter said.
Showalter said his church has an attendance of about 130 on Sundays. His flock may be small, he said, but they're loyal.
For instance, the church at the edge of McLouth is just a few years old.
"We built it ourselves," Showalter said.
Church members raised $400,000 for their new church, did much of the labor themselves, and today, the church is appraised at $1.2 million. And the church is just $180,000 from paying off the bank loan for their church building.
For the church as well as for the new daycare, Showalter said the sacrifices are worth it. That's because the projects allow the congregation to focus on their purpose.
"Because of our mission statement," Showalter said, "we want to know and experience Jesus Christ and we want others to know and experience him, too."
Church members have been dedicated, he said.
"We've spent almost every penny, every dollar, every ounce of energy outside of just worshipping and staying alive ourselves, trying to reach teenagers and children and families," Showalter said
The daycare is important, not just for the community, Showalter said, but also for the church.
The church itself has a strong youth program, Showalter said, explaining that church members wanted to build on that.
"We just thought there was a need in our community, so we worked on it, we prayed on it," he said of the decision to buy the building to house a daycare.
And, he said, the daycare will be Christian-based.
"It's specifically going to be Christian," Showalter said. "We're going to be licensed through the government but we definitely pursued this and made sure that the state would not regulate it."
A leap of faith<.b>
Sherry Alterman, administrative assistant for the church, said local interest bolstered the church's move to buy the daycare building.
"We've had an amazing amount of community support," Alterman said last Wednesday. "A business in town gave a donation of $1,000 and today they gave another $1,000. We're just extremely appreciative and we'd like to thank the whole community and everyone that's been so supportive."
And Showalter said he's amazed at the enthusiasm of his congregation, as well as the community.
"I've pastored for 23 years now, up until eight years ago in the urban setting, and I've pastored in quite a bit larger churches, and I'm just amazed at these folks over here," he said. "I'm just thinking that one of these days they're going to say, 'Wait a minute, we're working too hard.'"
Now Showalter said, he's hoping parents will show their support for the center by enrolling their children.
"For us, it's a tremendous leap of faith," Showalter said. "We're a tiny little church."