Some things slow down during a pandemic.

But prayer and progress continue. And light continues to reach out into the far corners of darkness.

Progress has slowed for Lighthouse Montessori Education Center, but the work remains “inspiring.”

Lighthouse Montessori’s mission statement is “Lighting the path for children to become independent, creative thinkers.”

Housed in the Ashley Community Building in DeKalb County, Lighthouse Montessori will be a Gospel-based, Montessori registered ministry education center for children ages 6 weeks through preschool-age.

“How is it going?” I asked Lisa Howe, director of Lighthouse Montessori Education Center and Agape Child Care.

“Inspiring!” she said.

Here is the rest of the Lighthouse story, shared in an email.

Why is Lighthouse Montessori needed?

Ashley is a child care desert. Early education is a pivotal part of a child’s life and these years should not be taken lightly.

A child’s brain grows rapidly during the first few years of life. By age 2, the child’s brain is about 80% the size of an adult’s brain. Due to this, it is important to give children the best experience and learning possible.

What is your goal?

We are a ministry seeking to spread God’s love to families and children, sponsored by LaGrange First Church of God. The church’s mission is not limited to LaGrange County. They want to spread light into dark places in their town, county, state and beyond! Lighthouse fits their mission.

Who are the leaders of this project?

Ben Stuckey and his church leadership have been a driving force and very supportive. Our board is made up of community members, church members and Agape Child Care Ministry members. The two programs will be collaborating through training, observation and professional development.

By collaborating with Ashley community leaders, we will operate in an under-used and re-purposed building to keep operating costs low.

What does Montessori mean?

Montessori education is based on the belief that the best way for a child to fulfill his or her potential is through age-appropriate independence.

Independence builds confidence, as children learn through their own successes and failures. But a Montessori environment is not a free-for-all. There are limitations for the child in the Montessori environment.

Above all, the Montessori philosophy is meant to help children fulfill their unique potential. Maria Montessori believed that a sense of purpose would lead to inner peace, and by extension a more peaceful world for our children.

Who are the main people/organizations involved?

In addition to Lisa Howe, director of Lighthouse Montessori and Agape Child Care Ministry, there are, so far, Scott Pflughoeft (Ashley Industrial Molding, Inc.), Ben Stuckey (LaGrange First Church of God), Tim Groosbeck (Agape Child Care Ministry), Karen Conrad (Ashley Industrial Molding, Inc.), Carol Klink (Klink Trucking), Karen Hughes (community member), Ingrid Lochamire (LaGrange First Church of God), Karen McEntarfer (Ashley Town Clerk) and Erica Cook (LaGrange First Church of God).

We hope in the next month to begin talking with businesses in DeKalb and Steuben counties to tell them about our program and a great sponsorship opportunity.

What is the timeline?

We were hoping to open in August. COVID-19 has pushed back feedback on funding. The building needs many new updates and thus funding is vital. We might be looking late fall or the beginning of 2021. Therefore, the timeline is unknown right now.

Overall, how is it going?

Inspiring! It has been great to see the community come together to form a board with the mission to help not just children and families but to fill a real need for business as well.

What happens when parents who want to work cannot find reliable child care?

According to the 2019 Early Learning Summit in Fort Wayne:

• Lack of child care costs Indiana employers nearly $2 billion per year.

• Employees miss an average of 13 days per year related to child care.

• Northeast Indiana has about 3,000 job openings per year caused by lack of child care.

How will Lighthouse Montessori be funded?

Companies will be asked to invest in child care for employees. Investments in high-quality child care yield about $4 for every $1 invested.

Reliable, quality child care can then be offered as a benefit to employees.

Viewing early learning as a benefit changes one’s perspective, aligning it with health care and insurance, benefits provided at a cost by employers.

Plans are for extended hours and above-average wages for teachers and staff to ensure stability.

By investing subsidy funding that is tax-deductible, businesses will be guaranteed positions in the classrooms that they can offer as a benefit to their employees. The guaranteed quality, reliable child care will help businesses reduce costs related to absenteeism, turnover and training.

Early education and businesses need each other.

Grace Housholder is a columnist and editorial writer for this newspaper. Contact her at ghousholder@kpcmedia.com.

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