Home Away From Home at Local Day Care Centers

SOMERS, N.Y. - It has been more than 40 years since the Country Childrens Center was founded in Katonah. For a number of years, it leased space but when Polly Peace became director in 1987, the board told her the center needed a home of its own.

“When you tell me to do something, I usually do it,” Peace said. “In this case, I made it my mission.”

With the help of a grant from IBM, the center acquired a property on Route 35 in Katonah, applied for permits, made renovations and opened its doors in 1991. 

“It was a private home with a pool and a barn,” Peace said. “We had to take down walls in the house to open up spaces but we left all the homey details so it doesn't seem institutional. The barn became a nature center.” 

“In the '90s, the need for child care became huge. There weren't a lot of options and there were zero facilities for infants,” Peace said. So the organization began to hunt for other houses for possible conversion.

“There’s usually a lot of opposition with the town because we go into residential areas,” Peace said. “We have to meet with the town board, the planning board, the zoning board, the department of conservation, the DEP and deal with traffic and noise. It hasn't been easy, but it’s worth it for the children. And we've never been turned down.”

In 2001, IBM decided to install its first on-site child care facility in Yorktown Heights. The center was chosen to run the site. “It’s IBM’s only one in the world. There’s space for 47 children and we have a long waiting list.”

“We’re here for working families,” Peace said. The center accommodates infants, pre-schoolers and students before and after school. There also is a summer camp.

The center is a not-for-profit organization, supported by parent tuition, grants from the Department of Social Services, the United Way, the Child and Adult Food Care Program, and private donations. There are five facilities in total, all in Northern Westchester.

“CCC differs from other places because we don’t go to strip malls or corporate parks,” Peace said. “All our places have been people’s homes. The playgrounds were somebody’s backyard. It’s a warm, home-like atmosphere for the children, the staff and the parents.”

Peace herself lives in a converted Victorian one-room schoolhouse in Lincolndale. “We took a school and made it into a house and we take houses and make them into schools. So I’m always in school.”

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