Steamboat Springs After more than 15 years serving the child-care needs of countless area families, Kinderhaus Family Center will close its doors for the last time Friday.
Enrollment at the center has declined steadily over the past two years as the nation's economy has struggled, Kinderhaus director Diane Carter said, and when Routt County commissioners recently decided to lower the eligibility threshold for families on child-care assistance, she knew Kinderhaus could not survive.
"(Kinderhaus) had a lot of families on assistance and a lot of those families won't be receiving that assistance this year," said Renee Donahue, director of First Impressions of Routt County. "(Kinderhaus') closing is somewhat indicative of the times. Unemployment is high, and enrollment is down all over."
The imminent closure has been hard on Carter, who began the child-care center in February 1988 with the help of Dick Yeager and has watched it grow over the years.
"Once I get over the devastation, I think I'll look back on how lucky I've been," Carter said. "It's like everywhere I go, I see a great memory of something that we did with the kids or some business that was involved with us."
Little did she know how happy her years as Kinderhaus director would be when she first started the center as a way to be with her own children while they grew up.
"Kids are so fun to be with, they see the best in everything," Carter said. "I don't think there was ever a day when I couldn't wait to get here. A lot of that is because of the great support from the community."
Carter and Kinderhaus have been involved in numerous partnerships and programs with Steamboat businesses and organizations, including Bud Werner Memorial Library's outreach program, the Tot Talk program with Dr. Jim Dudley, monthly lunches with toddlers and senior citizens at the community center and the Kinderhaus Tot Trot children's running race, to name a few.
"It's just always been a really reliable source for quality child care," Donahue said. "(Carter) always tried to keep it affordable and accessible for working parents."
Carter looks back fondly on memories of cross-country skiing lessons her students received from Todd Lodwick and Sven Wick and visits from former students, many of whom she goes to see at Steamboat Springs High School graduations.
On her desk sits a list of all the people and businesses she wants to thank for their help.
"I'm just sad," Carter said. "They have a lot of fond memories, too. The community is really what's kept this all going."