After 40 years of being a tenant, Sunny Day Child Care and Preschool has its own place to call home.
Its new building on Godfrey Drive in Waupaca’s Business and Technology Park opened Monday, Nov. 8.
It was the culmination of more than a year of planning, and Rhonda Melby, who attended Sunny Day herself as a child and is now its director, was there at least 30 minutes before the doors opened.
“I got here a little before 5 a.m.,” she said midway through her first morning in the new building. “I wanted to make sure everything was ready to go.”
Melby was not the only one anxious for Sunny Day’s first day there.
Phyllis Worden was already there waiting for Melby.
Of Sunny Day’s present employees, Worden has been with Sunny Day the longest and was scheduled to be the “opener” on Monday.
Melby said that Worden looked at her and said, “Let’s get it done.”
They walked in together.
“It got busy really fast,” Melby said. “There were a lot of early drop-offs. I think people wanted to get here early and have a tour.”
Celebrating its 40th anniversary in August, Sunny Day is a nonprofit organization run by a board of directors. It had always occupied the upper half of First United Methodist Church.
State licensing codes do not allow children under age 2 to be located on the second floor of a day care. As a result, Sunny Day had not been able to care for children under that age.
Today, Sunny Day is licensed for 128 children at the site and that license covers children from 6 weeks of age to 12 years old. It had been licensed for 64 children ages 2 to 12.
“So, we doubled it,” Melby said.
There are currently a total of 108 children under age 5 enrolled at the site, with another 38 children enrolled there in its after-school program.
In addition, 25 children are enrolled in Sunny Day’s after-school program at Waupaca Learning Center, which means a total of 171 children are enrolled in Sunny Day, she said.
The after-school program continues to be offered at WLC, because it is convenient for families. In the summer, between 30 and 35 children attend Sunny Day’s summer program at the school.
Melby said that because Sunny Day is nonprofit, they try to keep their rates low while also offering flexible scheduling.
Some children attend for a half day or several days a week. That is why the total number of children enrolled there is higher than the number, 128, that Sunny Day is licensed to care for there.
“We’re still taking enrollments,” she said.
Among the new arrivals on the first day at the new site were eight babies.
There is one room for those who are 6 weeks to 6 months and another room for babies who are 6 months to 12 months.
The two rooms mirror each other with a shared changing station. There is also a personal storage area, cubbies for car seats and a glassed-in sleeping area for the infants.
All of the rooms are based on the age of the children and are painted in different colors.
The new room for 1-year-old children had four children in it on Monday, and all of the rooms have direct – and secure – exits to the outside.
The front entrance is also secure. After parents walk through the initial set of doors, they use a card to open the next set of doors.
Once inside, they stop at the reception area. A wall in that area is decorated with tiles that show the names of the many who donated funds for the new building.
Ground was broken last June 14 for the $1.1 million project.
Sunny Day went from having 4,500 square feet to more than 11,000 square feet at its new site.
Donations were received from many individuals, families and businesses. Among them were $75,000 over the course of three years from ThyssenKrupp Waupaca, $50,000 from First National Bank, $25,000 from John and Carolyn Gusmer, $10,000 from Victor and Christine Anthony, $10,000 from Farmers State Bank and $5,000 from Centerline Machine.
Pam Gusmer is the president of Sunny Day’s board of directors and was among the board members there Monday morning to help as needed, whether it was taking snacks into rooms or washing dishes.
“To me, I think the Waupaca community deserves this center – this state-of-the-art place to take their children,” she said. “The community rallied behind it.”
Gusmer said large communities have such centers and that “Sunny Day had the whole deal except for the building.”
Melby said the stairs in the former location were an issue and that “this building is built specifically for kids.”
The building’s design includes rooms for the youngest of the children on one side with rooms for the older children on the opposite side. In the center of the building is a gym where children will be able to play on monkey bars, balance beams and mats when there is inclement weather. A stereo system means they can play music in it.
There is a restroom for the staff, an art supply area, a laundry area, a kitchen, a staff lounge and an office for Melby.
The laundry room means she no longer has to take the laundry from the center home each week. In the kitchen, meals and snacks are now prepared on-site – something that is also new for Sunny Day. In its old site, meals came from Riverside Medical Center. Meals and snacks are now wheeled into individual rooms on carts.
The staff lounge includes work space and also serves as a resource room.
Melby’s office is located in the front of the building, off a shared work space. The reception area will be staffed at all times.
There is also a designated area for children who are sick.
Sunny Day even has its own version of a yellow brick road.
A yellow line is on the hallway that goes throughout the building.
Melby describes it as a road map. With the rooms painted different colors, a block of the same color is on the floor just outside of each of the rooms.
If a grandparent is picking up a child, staff can tell the grandparent to follow the yellow line to a particular color. Children can also use the yellow line when they are riding their bikes in the building. The hall was built wide enough to handle bike and stroller traffic.
Outside is a large, fenced-in play area, with a play area for children ages 1 and 2 and then a separate one for children ages 3, 4 and 5.