Church covers child care costs for 35 children


By Danae King - The Columbus Dispatch



Brittany Keese, right, smiles with her daughter Vanessa, 3, as First Congregational Church announces Friday that they will be paying the child care bills for Childcare Wonderland parents during the month of December in Columbus.

Brittany Keese, right, smiles with her daughter Vanessa, 3, as First Congregational Church announces Friday that they will be paying the child care bills for Childcare Wonderland parents during the month of December in Columbus.


On Friday night, a “hallelujah” rang out in the cavernous sanctuary of First Congregational Church Downtown.

It wasn’t a choir, instead, the proclamation came from Catherine Ziglar, 39, and a mother of two whose youngest, 15-month-old Caleb, goes to day care at Childcare Wonderland Downtown.

She was shouting “Hallelujah,” interspersed with “yes,” “woo-hoo” and lots of clapping because Mark S. Williams, the church’s director of Christian education had just told her that she and her husband, Aaron, wouldn’t have to pay for Caleb’s child care for the month of December, a $1,000 cost for the family.

“I definitely did not expect that,” said Ziglar, who lives on the Northeast Side. “It’s just awesome to see the community giving back in such a special way.”

The Ziglars were one of about 20 families from Childcare Wonderland gathered at the church Friday evening to hear the news, which they didn’t expect was going to be that the church had raised enough money to pay for a month of child care for all the 35 children who attend the center.

The idea came to Williams from a conference he attended with the Children’s Defense Fund of Ohio, which suggested paying for a week of care for a local child. But Williams thought the congregation could do even better, and went to others at First Congregational Church to see how much money the congregation could raise toward the cause.

The congregation didn’t disappoint: they raised more than $15,000 to pay for the cost of a month of day care for all 35 enrolled children.

In December, no family will have to pay for day care. And those who receive a child care subsidy for low-income families, through a program called Title 20, will get gift cards to local grocery stores, said Williams, the church’s director of Christian education.

“The pandemic really has hit families that are on the edge, so to speak, and a lot of people have lost their jobs,” Williams said. “There’s a significant circle of: you do this, then this happens, then this happens. It’s a constant pushing down and keeping people in poverty. … My heart aches for the children.”

The church also is purchasing Christmas gifts for each of the children and, when Williams heard the daycare center’s stove broke recently, the church was able to use a donation of $800 to replace it.

In three weeks, the church raised more than $7,000, Williams said, and the church trustees matched $5,000 of that. Then, the church’s justice and mercy endowment gave an additional $2,000. This was enough to pay for day care for all of the children because most pay much lower, government-subsidized rates due to the level of poverty they are in.

“The impact that that will have on a family is unthinkable,” Williams said. “When they’re living in poverty and they’re trying to find ways to pay for child care and if they can’t pay for child care then they can’t go to work, so we’re finding ways to let other people know that ‘Hey, this can be done.’”

Williams said he hopes the church is an example to others who may have the means to call a local day care and offer to pay for one family’s care for a week, or even less. Anything can help, he said, even encouraging people without resources to call lawmakers in Congress and advocate for the child tax credit to become permanent.

Brittany Keese, right, smiles with her daughter Vanessa, 3, as First Congregational Church announces Friday that they will be paying the child care bills for Childcare Wonderland parents during the month of December in Columbus.
https://www.limaohio.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/54/2021/11/web1_20211120-AMX-US-NEWS-DOWNTOWN-CHURCH-COVERS-CHILD-CARE-1-OH.jpgBrittany Keese, right, smiles with her daughter Vanessa, 3, as First Congregational Church announces Friday that they will be paying the child care bills for Childcare Wonderland parents during the month of December in Columbus.

By Danae King

The Columbus Dispatch

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