By Kristen Miller
DASSEL, COKATO, MN - Lambs Christian Daycare Center and Preschool began a decade ago as a community outreach mission of Good Shepherd Free Lutheran Church. It continues today as such by providing a safe, nurturing, Christian-based environment for learning.
Located at 5939 Oliver Ave. SW in Cokato, Lambs Christian Daycare Center and Preschool is one of its kind in the area, according to Tony Onnen, director of the program.
“I can’t say enough great things about Lambs,” said Cindy Haataja, mother of Max, age 5. “I could go on all day,” she added.
Haataja has been bringing Max to Lambs since last fall and highly recommends other parents consider it for their daycare or preschool needs.
She also complimented the care and teaching of Tabitha Beckman, who became the lead teacher for Lambs in February.
Beckman came to Lambs with nearly eight years experience teaching at a private school in Rosemount, both kindergarten and preschool education and two years junior high math.
“Ever since I was in kindergarten, I’ve wanted to be a kindergarten teacher,” Beckman said.
“It’s what God has made me to do . . . work with kids in a nurturing environment,” she added.
Daycare is open from 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., and preschool is from 9 to 11:30 a.m.
A benefit for parents is that they only pay for the days their child attends daycare or preschool.
Lambs doesn’t want parents to be penalized for staying home with their child when they are able, Onnen explained.
If a child is in daycare for five hours or more, the family isn’t charged the preschool rate of $3.50, only the daycare rate of $2.75.
Because Lambs is a Christian daycare/preschool, lessons are taught from the Bible, with education components for school-readiness along with devotions and prayer.
Beckman teaches her students a letter of the alphabet each week, both how the letter sounds and how to spell it.
Through crafts, children learn skills needed for kindergarten. They also learn socialization skills and how to act in a classroom setting, Beckman explained.
Character-building skills, conflict resolution, and being respectful of each other are also part of the curriculum.
Though it varies from day-to-day, there are 14 children registered at Lambs, for either preschool, daycare, or both. There are openings for six more children.
Lambs began in 2000, following a church leadership conference and the prayers of two parishioners, JoAnn Onnen and Phyllis Stevenson.
The church determined one of its outreaches could be to provide a safe, Christian-based environment through a daycare/preschool. JoAnn was the first teacher of Lambs, until 2004.
One might think that the majority of the preschoolers are from within the parish. It’s actually quite the contrary, with the majority of the parents from the communities of Dassel, Cokato and Howard Lake, who aren’t parishioners of Good Shepherd Free Lutheran Church, according to Onnen.
Due to financial concerns, the committee raised rates last fall causing a decrease in enrollment, according to Onnen.
Then in November, the committee took action to close Lambs determining it a financial liability, Onnen explained.
When the parents and community members became aware of its closing, they responded by providing financial support.
Rates have also been lowered to a more competitive rate, Onnen said.
Because of the decreased enrollment, the committee is still considering if there is enough interest to continue the daycare/preschool through the summer months.
“Praise the Lord that the community support was there,” Onnen said.
Lambs Christian Daycare and Preschool is hosting a bowling fundraiser Sunday, May 16 from noon to 6 p.m. at the Maple Lake bowling alley.
For $30, families can rent a lane (one to six per lane) and shoes for one hour. Pop-up bumpers are also available for children to play. Food can also be ordered from the Pines Bar and Grill.
Owners Jerry and Lynette Pettit graciously donated this time and space for the fundraiser, and also have grandchildren who attend Lambs, according to Onnen.
All proceeds from the event go to Lambs Christian Daycare and Preschool.
To reserve times and lanes, contact Beckman at (320) 286-3412.
For more information about Lambs Christian Daycare and Preschool, call the number above or visit www.goodshepherdcokato.com.