1889 Foundation today announced a $500,000 grant to The Learning Lamp (TLL) to support Child Care Works for Somerset, a major expansion of child care services in Somerset County.

“Child care is a critical part of a healthy community – parents can’t be part of the workforce without it,” said Susan Mann, president of 1889 Foundation. “Further, research shows that 80% of a child’s brain development occurs between birth and age 3, so the quality of child care is vitally important. This project will significantly increase the availability of quality child care in an underserved, rural area.”

“1889 Foundation’s support of Child Care Works for Somerset validates the importance of child care in ensuring Somerset County has the workforce it needs to advance the region’s economy and prepare the next generation to build a strong community,” said Dr. Leah Spangler, president of TLL (who is pictured at left in the photo above, with Susan Mann).

The Child Care Works project will more than double the capacity of TLL’s child care center in Somerset to 134 slots, and result in the hiring of 27 new staff members. The building, a former health club located at 451 Aberdeen Dr., was leased by TLL in 2015, and purchased in 2020. The three-phased renovation will re-purpose racquetball courts and locker rooms into new classrooms, child-sized restrooms, and space for gross motor activities. Existing classrooms will be divided into separate, sound-proof learning areas to improve children’s ability to concentrate and fully engage in activities. Sinks will be added to each classroom, along with a centralized kitchen and laundry room.

TLL had raised nearly half of the $2.1 million needed to complete the entire project before receiving the $500,000 grant from 1889 Foundation. TLL will continue fundraising efforts to raise the remaining cost, but expects the first phase of the construction to begin this spring. The center will remain open throughout the renovation.

According to the PA Partnerships for Children’s 2021 “Child Care Works in PA” report, there were 2,650 children under 5 that required care in Somerset County. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, there were 27 child care providers operating in Somerset County, with capacity to serve 1,341 children. Pandemic-related shutdowns of child care centers have resulted in the permanent closing of four child care providers, and the loss of 70 slots.

“Even before the pandemic, there have historically been more children who are eligible for free preschool and PA Pre-K Counts each year than there are slots available,” Spangler explained. “That means families who can’t afford to send their children to preschool may be left with no other options. We are excited to be moving forward with this project to address that.”

For more about the Child Care Works for Somerset project or to contribute, visit TLL’s website.