More Than a Day Care
Thu, 10/12/2017 - 16:10 GCEditor
Little Panther Daycare & Preschool hires new director, nears 15 years in the Panora community
- The doors of the building open to a sea of smiling faces. Kids settle in and play games or read books in a corner with their favorite toy and closest friends. A group of young girls begs their counselor to watch them jump near a slide on the playground outside. Another counselor sits quietly blowing bubbles to the amazement of shy, yet curious little eyes.
- It’s an ordinary day at Little Panther Daycare & Preschool in Panora.
- The nonprofit center serves families living in Guthrie County and surrounding areas that seek a nurturing, stable, and quality environment for their children. Conveniently located just a few steps east of Panorama Elementary School and just north of the high school, Little Panther Daycare & Preschool provides care for children ages 4 weeks to 12 years, from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. It also provides a Preschool Program for children ages 3 to 5 years old.
- The privately owned, nonprofit corporation is fully licensed and regulated by the Iowa Department of Human Services. It will celebrate 15 years here in 2018.
- Charles and Tracy Griffith, son Ian (4) and daughter Lylah (3) find Little Panther Daycare & Preschool a good fit for their family, who recently moved to the Panora area.
- “The regular routine found at Little Panther, opportunities to socialize and structure of a center made us all feel at home,” said Tracy Griffith. “The proximity to the (Panorama) elementary school is a huge benefit, and Little Panther is there to support us through upcoming stages in our children’s lives.”
- Griffith said choosing a child care provider is a great responsibility for any parent and having a day care center that incorporates preschool curriculum ensures the children’s continuing education in addition to receiving great care.
- “Being able to leave our children with people we trust is more valuable than we can put into words,” Griffith said. “The staff truly cares about our children’s development and well-being and we are so thankful for them.”
- Griffith said the crafts and activities their children participate in are wonderful. Age-appropriate and developmentally appropriate curriculum is designed for each group.
- “We look forward to discussing the day’s activities with them and reviewing the papers they bring home,” Griffith said.
- Lylah Griffith enjoys naming all her day care friends, and when Ian began writing his name, it was a big milestone they all celebrated.
- Sean and Casey Crees of Panora have four children at Little Panther, including Morgan (9), Ashley (7), Mason (4) and Natalie (2).
- “Little Panther works for us because the staff is so easy to work with,” Casey Crees said. “You can tell they really care about the kids and always have their best interests at heart. I love that they are nonprofit which keeps my costs low.”
- Little Panther offers full-time and part-time tuition rates that are affordable and accommodate a variety of schedules. They participate in the Child and Adult Care Food Program, providing four well-balanced meals every day as part of that tuition.
- Little Panther is a great asset to the community, said Casey Crees.
- “When we first moved here and didn’t know anyone it was a huge relief to have a day care center in town,” she said. “Their location right by the school is nice, too, so the kids can walk to school.”
- Chris Arganbright, owner of Bryton Insurance Agency in Panora and one of seven volunteer members on the Little Panther Daycare & Preschool Board of Directors, said the center is unique.
- “We started this nonprofit child care center from the ground up because my co-worker could not find quality child care for her children,” Arganbright said. The USDA zero-interest loan they received put them over the hump of being able to move the original building from Jamaica to Panora and then add on to it.
- “For a nonprofit in the state of Iowa to be in business for 15 years is quite the accomplishment,” Arganbright said.
- Arganbright, who serves as president, is joined on the board of directors by Andy Randol, vice president; Julie Zajicek, treasurer; Kris Brewster, secretary; Laura Kemble, and Sarah Stiefel.
- The board hired just their fourth director this August as Page Arganbright replaces Shellie Stogdill, who after 11 years in the position is relocating to St. Louis with her husband, Doug, for a job.
- “I have just really enjoyed it,” Stogdill said, trying to hold back her tears inside the center. “It’s always been a family-type atmosphere here. It’s not a huge center, a nice size, so everyone can know everyone.”
- Little Panther Daycare & Preschool is licensed for 56 kids total, and they always have a waiting list. They have five classrooms, including infant, 0-1 year, 1-2, 3-4 and school age children. They have structured programs that are age-appropriate, yet challenging for each group. They offer flexible learning philosophy to give each child the chance to develop their individual style.
- Stogdill said each of their staff members, several who have been at the center from five to 10 years, have an age group they enjoy working with.
- “I like the 3- to 5-year-olds,” Stogdill said.
- Page Arganbright said she enjoys the 2- and 3-year-olds, who build with blocks, but still want to sit on your lap. She says she’s always ready to get out of the infant room.
- “I’ll find myself thinking, ‘Didn’t you just eat?’” jokes Arganbright, who raised five kids — two sons and three daughters — with husband, Tom, on their farm south of Panora.
- Audra Johnson, who has been with the center for 11 years, teaches the preschool kids.
- “There is something different here every day,” Johnson said. “The 4-year-olds, they can be sassy, but at least they are independent.”
- Stogdill said that unlike a lot of day care centers where staff revolves in and out, Little Panther has been fortunate to be very consistent over the years.
- “A lot of us have been here five to 11 years, which is a long time for a day care,” Stogdill said. She said it allows parents and staff to develop friendships.
- She expects the program to continue to grow and have an impact on the families for whom it provides care.
- “I feel like we’ve done a good job, we don’t have to advertise very much, we’re the only center in town,” she said. “I really feel like people are happy with us.”