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Supporters seek day care extension

Hospital’s plan to close child care center doesn’t leave enough time for negotiations, some say.

As Community Mercy Health Partners continues to negotiate with three groups that may take over its Bright Beginnings day care, people loyal to the facility are organizing to pressure CMHP to extend the daycare’s Feb. 4 closing date to give those negotiations a better chance.

“No non-profit could possibly negotiate a transfer of management and ownership in two months,” said Peter Townsend, a spokesman for Give Our Daycare Time (GOD-T).

The time period CMHP allowed is “way too short,” said Townsend, whose two daughters once attended Bright Beginnings and who now has a grandchild there.

With the closing date approaching, the day care on the former Mercy Medical Center campus has advised parents of the 60-plus children enrolled there to make other arrangements for their care as of Feb. 4.

“Since we can’t be certain” negotiations will conclude by the closing date, said CMHP spokesman Dave Lamb, “the director is recommending to the parents they begin seeking alternative care arrangements.”

When CMHP announced in mid-November that it was closing the facility, some parents said the short notice would make it difficult for them to find replacement daycare for their children.

Asked whether the date may have left too short a period to negotiations with a future operator, Lamb said, “If we’re able to select a provider who we believe can maintain the same high standards of care and it’s financially viable to them, it will be up to them when they can begin service.”

Meanwhile, about 60 people gathered last week at Springfield’s New Hope Church to celebrate the service and what it has provided.

Vicky Forrest, one or the event’s organizers, said three generations of her family have been cared for there.

“My brother, Scott, attended the daycare when our mother was working (at Mercy); my daughter and son attended when I was employed there; and now my grandson, Henry, attends there,” Forrest said.

“To have that proximity, that continuity, and knowing your child was being cared for by people who were genuinely committed to a high quality service” was “absolutely the best circumstance you could have,” she added.

“And that was thanks to the Sisters of Mercy, who knew women needed to have that support to have a career.”

Betty Kitts, who retired as a nurse in 1990, said her family relocated from Columbus to Springfield in 1963 because of the daycare.

“When I had our son, I wanted to go back to work, but I didn’t have someone I could trust to watch him,” she said. “We moved back to Springfield for that.

“My son was in the hands of the people right there at the hospital and where I could see him any time I wanted.”

After her daughter, Kelley, was born, “I just took both of them,” she said.

“They taught them so much. They potty trained them. And they loved them.”

Kitts said Kelley, whose last name is now Mathews and who is a registered nurse at Springfield Regional Medical Center, also took her now 18- and 20-year-old children to Bright Beginnings.

Those comments echoed those of parents who currently rely on the service and express high regard for Bright Beginnings’ staff, some of whom have been with the program for decades.

CMHP, which operates Springfield Regional Medical Center, said it is ending its relationship with the daycare to focus on its core mission of providing high quality health care.

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