Many children have passed through the doors at Cushing Daycare, but on Friday, those doors will close.
In the 1970s, city leaders saw a need for a daycare and rallied to make it happen. Since opening in the basement of the old high school and its move to its current location in 1984, Cushing Daycare has served the community and its children well.
“It’s sad,” said Carla Fenn, director of Cushing Daycare. “I guess the daycare was no longer seen as a valuable tool for the community.”
Fenn took over Cushing Daycare approximately five years ago. Not a novice, however, she managed the facility for seven years in the 90s. “My children were small and it was a perfect fit back then,” Fenn said. “But when they got older, I decided to go back into nursing. In 2004, I was approached to come back and help get it back on its feet.”
Fenn said she was “shocked” when she saw how things had declined during the time she was away. Challenged, she worked diligently to bring it back up to speed, but it was a constant uphill battle.
“Things needed updated and there just wasn’t enough money,” Fenn continued. “We tried fund raisers and we worked hard to make things better – and did for a while – but it just wasn’t enough.”
Fenn said the last straw, as it were, was when no one would commit to being a board member. “We’ve needed a board of directors for the past year – and no one wanted to do it,” she said sadly. “I was told they didn’t want the liability.”
Many people may believe that Cushing Daycare employees are city employees – not the case. Although the City of Cushing does own the building, that is the extent of it. “We are a non-profit organization. None of us are city employees or have city benefits,” Fenn said. “Although they didn’t charge us rent, you could say the city was our landlord.”
However, according to Fenn, the daycare was primarily responsible for the cost of improvements and general maintenance.
“I just cried and cried when they came to me and told me we would have to shut our doors,” Fenn said. “My girls – I feel so bad for my girls – they’ve worked so hard.”
Her “girls” are the teachers and helpers of Cushing Daycare. Granny Betty, Miss Ruby, Miss Mitzi – those three alone have a combined total of 84 years at the daycare. The others – Miss Sara, Miss Leslie, Miss Stephanie, Miss Jamie, Miss Chrissy, Miss Amy, Miss Clelly, Miss Ann, Miss Brianne, Miss Briea, Miss Jalisa, Miss Crystal and Miss Hayley may not have had the years, but they had the heart. All of them say the hardest thing is not seeing the children again. “They were like our nieces and nephews,” Miss Sara said. “We’ve watched them grow.”
“We had a well-trained staff,” Fenn continued with emotion, “four master teachers and two that were getting their training.”
Fenn went on to say she wants to dispel a couple of nasty rumors that have been circulating as to why the daycare is closing.
One such rumor – that DHS is shutting it down.
“If DHS shuts you down,” Fenn said, “you are shut down immediately. You certainly wouldn’t have a couple of weeks to do it.”
The other rumor – that a child had choked to death.
“We had a toddler who was choking,” Fenn explained. “She was actually having a seizure, but because she was having lunch at the time, a piece of food blocked her airway.”
Cushing Daycare staff worked as a team – calling 911 and administering CPR until the ambulance arrived.
“I’m happy to say, the little girl is doing just fine,” Fenn said.
So what happens now?
“I don’t know where some of the parents will take their children,” Fenn said. “A couple of the other daycares are already full. And, too, we have a lot of DHS-assisted children and not all daycares take DHS. I just don’t know – it’s just sad.”