By LESLIE COLLINS
July 17, 2013
“You’d be amazed at how many people came here as kids and have brought their kids back,” said Ronda Chandler, director of Temple Tottery day care, 110 S. Lawndale.
Thirty-three children currently attend Temple Tottery, which has served as a staple in the Northeast community since September of 1976.
For so many families, Temple Tottery is more than a day care, it’s a resource.
“What we do as a day care is an extension of our Calvary Temple Church ministry,” Ronda Chandler said. “We try to reach out to families that are going through things and we try to help them. A lot of them go to the food pantry that’s open every Tuesday.”
A number of the day care families are low income and the economy hasn’t been kind. Through Harvesters, however, Temple Tottery stocks a pantry full of fresh fruits and vegetables, along with other food staples and personal items. During the winter, the day care partnered with The Salvation Army’s Project Warmth to provide families in need with brand new coats, gloves and hats. For Christmas, Temple Tottery signed up its kids in need for Toys for Tots. During day care hours, youngsters receive healthy snacks and meals, since Temple Tottery is a member of Missouri’s Child and Nutrition Adult Care Program.
“They’re getting more than a day care,” she said. “They’re getting relationships and a partnership that can help them with more than just day care needs.”
Calvary Temple Church Pastor Barry Chandler added that Temple Tottery also prepares youngsters for kindergarten.
“We structure our day care to become a learning center,” he said. “Kids are taught the basic elementary skills to prepare to go to kindergarten.”
They learn about respect, social etiquette, responsibility and receive positive enforcement, he said. They learn about the alphabet, shapes, numbers, colors and other fundamental skills. There’s also a small computer lab, where the children play learning games and begin to grasp computer literacy.
“If they start off under scale, then it’s hard for them to achieve when they get into kindergarten,” Ronda Chandler said. “We really focus in our preschool on preparing them for kindergarten. That’s an important thing that we’re doing.”
Asked what she likes about working at the day care center, she said, “There’s never a dull moment, that’s for sure. Every day is a different challenge. It’s interesting.”
She also enjoys watching the youngsters learn, and said her favorite age group is four to five-year-olds.
“Four-and five-year-olds are my favorite because they’re just so unpredictable and they’re just so honest – painfully honest some days. They’re just fun to be around,” she said.
One aspect that sets Temple Tottery apart from other day cares is the longevity of its employees, she said.
“We have a staff that loves kids,” Barry Chandler said.
Two of those include Mary Nastasi, who’s worked at Temple Tottery for 26 years and Shelly Boulais who’s worked there for 19 years.
“I like the diversity of the children. There’s such a melting pot,” Nastasi said. “We’ve had every single race and nationality you can think of.”
Boulais, who began working at Temple Tottery at the age of 14, began as a “helper,” serving food to the children, changing diapers and reading stories to them. Now, she cooks and serves lunch in addition to teaching the preschool class.
Asked what’s kept her at Temple Tottery for so long, she said, “The kids, mostly. I also like the way it’s been run and the community between the employees, and our boss is one of the best things here.”
A number of former day care kids still pop in to visit, Ronda Chandler said, including a Kansas City Police Officer. The KCPD officer stopped in one day just to say, “Hi,” she said.
Boulais hopes to continue fostering the connection to Temple Tottery.
“As they grow older,” Boulais said, “hopefully they remember back to what they learned here and remember the experience they felt here with us.”
110 S. Lawndale, Kansas City, Mo. (816) 241-3470 Hours: 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday
Children accepted: Six weeks old to five years old. State subsidies accepted.