Gardena Child Care program keeps families in high spirits

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HOLIDAY CARE—Clockwise from left are Gardena Family Child Care staff Elfega Rodriguez, Jasmine Arevalo, Lupe Zendejas and Prescilla Saucedo pose with Saint Nick before families arrive. Photo by Pearl Sheets

By Pearl Sheets

GVN Freelancer

 

Christmas came early this year, as the Gardena Family Child Care program pulled out all the stops to help low-income families celebrate this holiday season.

An annual event, families enrolled in the program who participated in a candy fundraiser, were invited to the Nakaoka Center Thursday, the first of December, for refreshments, games and gifts, as well a chance to meet with old Saint Nick, himself.

By Pearl Sheets

GVN Freelancer

 

Christmas came early this year, as the Gardena Family Child Care program pulled out all the stops to help low-income families celebrate this holiday season.

An annual event, families enrolled in the program who participated in a candy fundraiser, were invited to the Nakaoka Center Thursday, the first of December, for refreshments, games and gifts, as well a chance to meet with old Saint Nick, himself.

“I think the parents really enjoy it,” Veronica Blanco, who has been working for the program for eleven years, said. “Families get to come together, [the children] get a gift and it is a nice event for them.”

Families are asked to sell at least one box of chocolates during the summer, at $1 a bar, after which they are invited to join in the fun and merriment provided by the funds raised.

“Each parent sells a box,” Lupe Zendejas, who has been working for the program 14 years, said. “We do provide incentives. For instance, if they sell three boxes, they can earn two movie tickets.”

This year, 120 boxes were sold, which funded the the event, as well as the gifts and refreshments.

Gifts are selected for children based on age and gender: “We set up a day with Mattel and they let us come in extra early before they open to the public, and we shop,” Zendejas said. “The gifts are generic. So, for example, all 1-year-old (babies) get the same present to make things easier.”

Along with taking part in the giving spirit that the season elicits, Glenda Peralta, who has worked with the program for a year, tells us that the event benefits the community at large: “It makes the community come together and it makes us feel great because we are providing a program for low-income families. It puts a smile on my face.”

Through this event, staff is given the opportunity to interact with and meet the children who participate in the program.

“It is a fun production,” Blanco said. “The staff really gets into it. It is a holiday thing. The families enjoy it. We like to see the smiles and we like to see that the families are [having a good time].”

Operating out of the Human Services Building in the Nakaoka Center, members of the community who are interested in subsidized childcare are welcomed to stop by for more information.

“[The Gardena Family Child Care program] is a state-funded program [offered] through the department of education. So, we have to renew our contract annually, “Zendejas said. “We provide low-income families with licensed providers who provide child care in their homes.”

Child care may be provided for those who work and reside in Gardena, depending on eligibility.

Also, prices are decided per household, not per child, another reason this program is so well-liked by those utilizing its services.

Qwanitta Murphy, whose five year old daughter, Karesma Mason-Murphy has been enrolled in the program since August, touts it as a major boon for parents.

“It helps the community a lot. Child care is low cost or free, and child care [elsewhere] is on average $150 per week, or six to seven hundred dollars per month. You need child care [in order to] work. I was paying out of pocket for child care before, and it was kicking my butt,” Murphy said.

Arlette Rodriguez, who has both her seven year old daughter, Danielle, and her two year old son, Bentley, enrolled in the program, is also relieved by the low cost child care: “It is perfect. I don’t know what we would do without this program. I try to tell people about it but I do not think they believe me.”

Gardena residents and employees who would like more information about low cost child care may reach Lupe Zendejas by telephone at 310-217-6114, or by e-mail at gzendejas@co.gardena.ca.us.

Gardena Child Care program keeps families in high spirits