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New early learning center opening in Moneta
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New early learning center opening in Moneta

A new child care facility is opening in downtown Moneta this month.

Heavenly Hands Early Learning Center, which operates a 24-hour, five-days-per-week location in Lynchburg that opened in April 2018, announced a second location will open at 1077 Town Circle Way, Moneta, on Oct. 18.

The Moneta location will operate from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays, offering child care for children ages six weeks through 12 years old. It also will offer before- and after-school care, with a 90-student enrollment capacity.

Heavenly Hands offers more than traditional babysitting, said owner and founder Laura Watlington.

“We’re not an ordinary day care. Yes, we teach the ABCs and 1-2-3s. Yes, we read to them and do the circle time. But we go above and beyond that,” she said.

The child care center has a STEM curriculum suitable for a wide age range; physical fitness programs including sports, dance and yoga; and teaches sign language. Sign language allows young children to communicate effectively before their speaking skills fully develop, Watlington said, which can help reduce frustration in little ones. These lessons also can be a learning opportunity for teachers, she added.

Heavenly Hands also believes in cultivating practical and business skills in children and teaches small business principles. Last summer, the small business principles class at the center’s Lynchburg location resulted in participating children launching three small businesses: candle making, custom designed tumblers and T-shirts. Three- and four-year-olds helped string necklaces to sell, Watlington said.

“It’s not about sitting there and letting the TV watch the children,” Watlington said of her child care centers.

Another part of Heavenly Hands’ focus is on health, nutrition and wellness. In addition to the exercise classes taught, Heavenly Hands helps enrolled children grow vegetables and herbs in an organic garden in Lynchburg. Watlington said she plans to plant another organic garden at the Moneta location with the children there.

Child care is a desperately needed resource in the Bedford area.

Bedford County is classified as a child care desert by state standards, said Andy Crawford, director of the Bedford County department of social services. The term means there are at least three children for every one spot at a day care or after-school care facility. In Bedford County, according to the most recent data, there are about 21 children to every available spot.

Expanding child care offerings has long been a goal and a need in Bedford County and the Central Virginia region generally. Bedford County officials released two surveys earlier this month for county residents who are employers, or parents/guardians of children in a step toward addressing and helping solve the problem.

Lack of child care makes it harder for parents to be able to work, which in turn hurts the workforce at large, said Ashley Graham, director of family and children’s services with HumanKind, a partner organization with United Way of Central Virginia.

Watlington made the same observation.

“Parents are trying to get back to work,” Watlington said.

Pam Bailey, director of the Bedford County economic development authority, is supportive of the coming child care service.

“I was excited to see a child care facility opening up in one of the underserved areas of the county. This is great news for parents who need reliable, licensed child care so they can go to work to support their family, and it’s great news for employers as they are struggling to find employees who may have had barriers, like lack of child care, that prevented them from working,” Bailey said.

The Bedford County EDA partnered with the county’s department of social services in administering the child care surveys earlier this month. The survey deadline is Oct. 29.

Heavenly Hands is hiring teachers for part-time and full-time positions at the Moneta location, as well as a director and assistant director position. Interested applicants may apply on location from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday to Friday.

More information is available at heavenlyhandselc.com, or by calling (540) 655-3033.

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