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'Friends' to focus on child care

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— Little Friends Day Care and Preschool is making some changes in hopes to improve its child-care service, but the new director of the nonprofit organization said she will not revamp most of the existing programs.

Shelly Kaspar, from Greeley, stepped into the director's position late last month and said she is looking forward to the opportunity to make the child-care center better.

"The center has a lot of potential," she said.

She said her goal is to get south Routt residents who drive their children into Steamboat for child-care services to drop them off at Little Friends in Oak Creek instead.

One of the most significant changes Kaspar is making is closing the infant-care facility, which downsizes the staff from seven to five.

That move will be made at the end of December, and Little Friends will help place the one baby it has into another child-care opportunity between now and then.

Money was the main issue in the move, Kaspar said.

"We were paying more for the teacher's salary than we were getting for tuition," Kaspar said.

Routt County Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak sits on the Little Friends nine-member board. She said the pressing issue for the child-care group is figuring out how to make it work financially.

"We are still having problems with cash flow and revenue," Stahoviak said.

Ending the infant program may help solve some of those problems, Kaspar said.

"The idea of closing the infant room is to focus on the programs we have and run them the way we want to run them," she said. Kaspar explained once that happens, the infant room may be reopened.

After the change is completed, Kaspar wants to go with the programs that are in place instead of gutting it out and starting from scratch. That includes keeping the before- and after-school programs for children 12 and under, the preschool program and the toddler program basically the same. About 25 children from south Routt benefit from the programs.

"One of the problems with the center is that there has been different directors and they all wanted to do something different," Kaspar said.

She said most directors of nonprofit child-care organizations stick around for 10 years or more, which hasn't been the case at Little Friends.

"The director needs to be a stable position," Kaspar said. She added that the staff and the children are tired of new people coming in, changing everything and then leaving.

"We just want to try to take some of the kinks out of what we're doing right now," she said.

It looks promising that Kaspar will be around for at least two years, if not more, Stahoviak said.

Kaspar's husband, Rick, will be placed at the Colorado State Patrol office in Steamboat Springs as a trooper. There is a two-year commitment with that job.

Plus, Kaspar and her husband enjoy living in Oak Creek because it is so close to outdoor recreational sites.

"There's no place in the world that's better for us," she said.

To reach Doug Crowl call 871-4206

or e-mail dcrowl@amigo.net

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