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New child care center taking students

October 9, 2013
By MEL TOADVINE ( , Lehigh Acres Citizen

A new child care day center has opened in Lehigh Acres and officials are trying to get the word out because of what they see as a very special need in the community for this type of care.

Catherine Daboin said the new child care center is not a day care center; but a place where young children can come and learn and even learn to speak Spanish if they are English speaking children or to learn English, if they are Hispanic children.

The age of the children being accepted in the new Harvest International Academy at the Villages of Lehigh, just off Taylor Road, opened in September with less than 10 children and have the capacity to care for 38 children from early in the morning to 6 at night.

Article Photos

Raquel Rivera and Annabelle Gutierriez at the new child care center in Lehigh Acres.

"We have room for expansion if there is enough interest, said Daboin, who is the program coordinator for the academy and director of the the Harvest Learning Center. Daboin of Cape Coral said the academy is an extension of the learning center and a ministry of Harvest International Ministries on Lee Boulevard. The church has moved into its new building but is still conducted child care classes at the original church complex.

Teachers at the new early education center are Beverly Gutierrez, Raquel Rivera, Ida Martinez and Starla Holley, who is part of the front desk support staff. The little children call her "Miss Star."

The new child care center is licensed by the Department of Children and Families.

"Parents can bring their children to us as early as 6:30 a.m. and pick them up by 6 p.m. This gives working parents a good time span for their children to be well taken care off with educational opportunities, fun and crafts and outdoor activity twice a day, depending on the heat," Daboin said.

Cost for children at the new center is $135 for infants and $125 for other children. While parents pay by the week or by the month for the care, there is also a voucher system provided by Early Learning Coalition of Southwest Florida which provides scholarships for lower income families to help them to be able to get the same type of early educational training.

Parents interested in having their children enrolled in the new early education center should stop by and get more information and to apply for their children. The venue is in the building that was a movie theater just a few years ago and then became a school. The building has been freshly painted and decorated and church services are held there.

"Older children in the early learning domains will get physical development training, cognitive development, and learn social and emotional skills and what we call 'early literacy.'

"It has a spiritual aspect but no doctrine is taught to the children. All religions are welcomed here," she said.

"We also specialize in diversity and invite all families with different cultures to become a part of our program. We are working very closely with the families of the children who attend here," Daboin said.

Children may go on near-by field trips and many professionals in the community are often invited to come to the school and talk with our children. One case could be a dentist who may visit and tell the children how important dental hygiene is and that going to the dentist doesn't hurt any more.

Daboin said the program is year-round, during school season and during the summer.

"We have expanded because we see a real need in Lehigh now with so many people living in the community, and with so many different cultures that exist here now. Lehigh is reportedly at a population of just over 90,000 and most of those families are young with children. There are other such centers in Lehigh, but we think there is still a need there," Daboin said.

"We provide a safe environment. The industry is strongly regulated and we meet all the requirements. We shouldn't forget, too, that the child care center also provides meals and snacks," she said.

To also enroll children, call 239-369-7330 or stop by the center during the week.

"Our teachers are bilingual and like we said, working with the family is an important part of our program," Daboin said.



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