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Business Beat: Little People’s Center

Behind the scenes of Medford's four-decade old childcare center.

As part of our series focused on meeting business owners in the local community, we recently sent Laura Miller, from Medford's Little People's Center, a host of questions. The center recently won 3rd place in the Day Care Centers category in the Long Island Press' Best of Long Island.

1) Describe what your business is? 

Little People’s Child Care Center is a full year learning center that provides consistent, loving childcare and are licensed by NYS Office of Children and Family Services.  Recently our local, privately owned business was recognized by the Brookhaven Community, Dean Murray and Governor Cuomo with a Small Business Award.  Our center and the children we cherish have used the monies of this award to purchase a defibrillator.  

2) Where are you from and what is your personal/professional background? 

Mary and her husband Anthony moved their young family from the Bronx to Medford in 1977. Mary Abate has been a Medford resident since then and has been with Little People’s Center since the 1980s.  She was first employed as a teacher’s assistant, and then as her experience and education increased, made her way to Director. In 1999 Mary and her daughter Laura Miller purchased Little People’s and they continue to run it today. Laura has her master’s degree in Early Childhood Education from birth-2nd grade. She has been with Little People’s Center since the 1990s.  She and her husband Kyle have two young children of their own that attended Little People’s Center and continue their education in Patchogue-Medford Schools. 

 3) Why did you decide to open your business in Medford? Describe some of the history of your business, such as when it opened, where it operates, etc.?  

Little People’s Center has been located at 208 Jamaica Avenue in Medford since 1972.  It was built during difficult economic conditions, similar to those we face today. It became apparent that childcare was an essential need in our area.  This matter came to the attention of St. Sylvester’s Parish Council, who explored the possibility of a community childcare center at their parish.  

After review, it was decided their Church facilities were limited and not conducive for such a purpose.  A proposal was made to search for another location and seed money was provided by the parish for this endeavor.  A member of the committee set out to look for other sites, and happily found an adequate place at St. Marks’s Episcopal Church in Medford.   A wonderful spirit of collaboration developed between the two Churches.  Many workers came forward to extend the building and make it a welcoming, safe environment for the children.  

Mary, Laura and their families are long time parishioners of St. Sylvester’s Church and the children at Little People’s make holiday donations to both St. Sylvester’s and St. Mark’s outreach programs. We feel a strong connection to our community and love the relationships we have forged over the years with the families and small businesses of Medford.

4) What do you hope to accomplish with your business?

Little People’s Center wants to continue to be an essential part of the community.  We are grateful for the vision and foundation of the people who bravely faced economic challenges and responded to a need in this area.  We want to continue to be here to serve the families in this community with consistent quality. childcare. We believe children are our most important resources and are, therefore, treated as such 

5) What types of child care do you specialize in (age ranges, special needs, etc.)?

Little Peoples offers a Child Care Program which provides and introductory school experiences and socialization for children ages 2-5. The children at our center are provided with a balanced curriculum, reading readiness, and mathematical preparation. In addition, they enjoy many opportunities to play and experiment.

We have a large fenced in outdoor play area where the children delight in games, science, building and exercise. We are advocates for play; play is important for socialization, problem solving and ultimately as stress relief. We encourage face-to-face engagement with other children, caring adults, and the natural world. 

6) What is your favorite and least favorite aspect of running your business? 

Working with children has always been a passion of ours. It is a thrill to see them grow and learn.  Many children that have passed through our center are now parents with children of their own and we have the pleasure of caring for and teaching a second generation.

As the owners of a NYS licensed day care center we know first hand of the requirements and dedication it takes to care for children. NYS has mandated training that includes 30 hours of safety and security education every two years.  As business owners and full time teachers of the children at our center, finding the time to attend these courses sometimes seems like an insurmountable goal.  Nonetheless, it is a requirement we have successfully completed with every licensing period. The updated information that we’ve gained through these seminars have been utilized by our entire staff to benefit our children.

7) What specific challenges do you face with running your business and making it work in today's economy? 

We are a small privately owned business and we don’t have the funds that franchised day care centers do to promote our business through heavy advertising.  Yet, after prospective parents visit Little People’s, they are completely blown away with the tidiness, homeyness, love and quality learning children experience at our center.  

In order to keep a happy and safe environment for the children at our center we have gone weeks without pay and kept our standards high and our staff paid and employed. With rising costs of insurances, taxes and products, we have kept our tuition costs at a rate affordable to the parents in our community.  

8) How can people reach you? 

For further information we can be reached at 631-289-7493, via email at littlepeoples1@aol.com, by visiting our website at www.littlepeopleschildcare.org or our Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Medford-NY/Little-Peoples-Center/323367516321

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