Community Child Care Center celebrates 50th anniversary.

Daycare centers typically spend all their time with toddlers, but for the past 50 years, Community Child Care Center has been caring for the whole family.

The Community Child Care Center in Franklin is celebrating its semi-centennial anniversary this year, hoping to hold a ceremony in the fall if it’s safe to gather, but either way, the team is celebrating as it reflects on the past several decades of service to local families.

Tara Blue, the executive director at Community Child Care, used to teach at New Hope Academy in Franklin for about 15 years, but after a while, she realized she wanted to help not only kids but the rest of the family too, which brought her to her current job.

Today, she spends time planning, grant writing, and wearing the many hats nonprofit leaders have to wear in addition to setting time aside to pour into kids and parents. In fact, she had just finished a serious conversation with a parent before her interview with Southern Exposure.

“We’re not only educators, but a lot of times we’re counselors,” Blue said. “Sometimes you have to stop what you’re doing to help them because if that parent isn’t where they need to be emotionally, then that child is going to have to deal with it when they go home. So, I just want to see my parents flourish.”

This idea of supporting the whole family began with the nonprofit’s foundation 50 years ago. A group of local church women came together, seeing a need for affordable childcare, and started Community Child Care in 1971. Blue’s predecessor, Hattie Baines, was one of the first teacher assistants upon the center’s opening.

Baines explained that the nonprofit started by accepting only families within a certain income bracket, tending to those with the greatest need, who couldn’t afford childcare elsewhere. With these circumstances in mind, Community Child Care made sure to not only focus on education but to tend to emotional and material needs as well. Baines shared that the childcare center performed home visits, stayed up to date on available resources at local churches, and provided food, clothing and more as families had need.

She recalled a time during the 2010 flood when a single father needed someone to watch his kids while he worked until he could arrange a permanent solution, and the nonprofit provided him six months of free childcare.

Today, anyone can come to Community Child Care, which serves children up to 5 years old, and fees are determined based on income and need to keep childcare affordable and accessible.

While caring for parents is certainly a priority, the nonprofit of course focuses on caring for the children. Baines shared that Community Child Care is all about giving kids with fewer opportunities equal footing as they enter kindergarten.

“I want to give them an even start, give them the opportunity to start on an even keel,” she said.

While Baines is no longer at Community Child Care, retiring as executive director after 45 years at the nonprofit, Annie Dixon has made it her goal too to prepare children for their 13-plus years in school and beyond as she continues to teach at the center after 47 years.

Dixon shared that academics are important in the classroom, but she also focuses on teaching other skills and qualities as well.

“In my classroom, it’s about respect. It’s about caring, empathy for one another,” she said. “All of that plays a part in what I do. Academics, yes, but all of that comes in with it.”

After teaching at the nonprofit for nearly five decades, Dixon said she has seen a lot of changes in education, but the basics of kindness and respect are always constant. She said being a teacher is not always easy — she is sure to get “prayed up” before walking into the classroom every day — but when she sees former students in the community, all grown up and still exhibiting the relational qualities she taught them as they achieve major goals, it keeps her going.

“We have some scholars and kids that have graduated from college with their master’s, and when I look out there, I’m like, ‘It was worth it. We have done some positive things,’” she said.

As Community Child Care continues to serve the community beyond this milestone year, Blue shared that she has several goals she hopes to achieve, such as moving to a bigger building, receiving accreditation, creating a parent resource room and, of course, further growth. For now, the center is investing in its current staff, encouraging teachers to take certain courses through Columbia State Community College, and continuing to serve its families as it looks forward to future steps.

And above all, Community Child Care continues to strive to be a place of safety and service for children and their families, even after they leave through its doors.

“I always tell my kids when they graduate to go to kindergarten to just remember, no matter where you go and what you do, remember that Miss Dixon loves you, and you can always come visit me, come talk to me if you need anything,” Dixon said. “I want them to be safe in this big ol’ wide world that they’re going to go out into.”

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