Good child care is good for business. When parents have a safe, nurturing place to leave their children, they can concentrate on their work, says Sharon Kale, president of the board for Longview Child Development Center that serves low income families.

“It’s a community service,” she said. “Employers depend on parents who can’t be worrying about their kids at work. Longview Child Development Center is not only caring for and educating children, but keeping families in the work force.”

Not only that, it is “a very real approach to breaking the cycle of poverty.” A family trying to work its way out of poverty can find it impossible when average daycare costs start at well more than $100 per week per child. Longview Child Development offers an alternative.

Kale rejects societal stereotypes of uncaring, low-income adults with little desire to improve their lot because she sees herself.

“It’s heartwarming to watch the parents pick up the kids, especially the dads.” It’s a mistake to think of poor fathers as absent or distant from their children, she said. “They really do participate” in their families’ lives, she said.

Longview Child Development Center is edging toward the 40-year mark of caring for children ages 6 weeks through kindergarten. Infant care is $80 per week and care for older children is less.

Kale fears that much of the city is unaware of the good that is happening at the southern Longview campus.

“In the nonprofit world, you’re engaged in an ongoing effort to make ends meet,” said Kale, who, after a long teaching career at Pine Tree schools, led Longview Community Ministries until 2010.

About two years ago, the Center was about to name a new director but Kale knew the finalist was not the right fit. She headed to the meeting where the board was set to hire the person but continued to pray for a better answer. That is when she received the application from LaToyia Hawkins, who was not from Longview but whose family had deep roots in the Pine Tree community. Kale knew them and she knew the right person had come along.

Longview Child Development Center serves some 95 children ages 6 weeks through 5 years. Although the center uses HUD income guidelines for low to moderate income families to determine eligibility, parents must also meet at least one of the following requirements: Work a minimum of 30 hours per week, be enrolled in or attending a job training program, or be a full-time student carrying a minimum of 12 hours in coursework.

Most of the Center’s families fall in the low to very low income bracket, making a combined income of $24,000 yearly, Hawkins said.

“It’s child care but it’s preschool,” Kale said. That means all ages are engaged in learning. Once kindergarten children enter public school, the center’s teachers work with them, reinforcing what they have learned in school and helping with homework and other supplemental activities, Hawkins said.

“We’re family. We are their home away from home,” Hawkins said.

Besides funding from United Way, the Center receives funds from the city of Longview along with donations of money and time from groups and individuals. Leaders are considering an annual event both to raise money and the center’s profile in the community.

In April, Leadership Longview donated upgrades to the facility’s exterior that include parking lot striping and new fencing. Most notable are the bright colors that now dress up the main entrance. The project replaced a drab entryway with vivid paint complemented by planters bearing brightly colored flowers.

“Now it looks like a child care facility. They really brought a lot of life to it,” Hawkins said at the project’s completion. Kale wants people to drive by and see the new entrance and perhaps come visit. She wants Longview to get to know the Longview Child Development Center.

Even as the center’s many needs prove a constant challenge, Hawkins revels in her role, emphasizing that an early foundation is crucial to future learning.

“It’s a pure joy to be a positive influence and help shape learning,” she said.