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Day care closes its doors

"The poet Larkin put it well - his Church Going puns on church attendance and the disappearance of places of worship.Children's Center Going doesn't have the same ring to it - but if there were a verse to commemorate the loss of the St. Barnabas Day Care Center, that would be it. The community and the church shared a sacred space, said parent Patricia Erskine, as the center closed down for good Wednesday after six years of operation. In a letter to members of St. Barnabas Parish, rector Joseph Tiernan said the decision to close the center sprung partly from the difficulty of securing grant funding for a project that can no longer be described as start-up. Center officials also cited higher costs from the addition of paid positions, and a declining demand for the service as other youth programs burgeoned around the island.Said Smith: Juggling the needs of the community with those of the parishioners is a tougher task than may have been realized when the program started. Smith became director of the Children's Center in 1998, a program which started life under Darla Berg's initiative in 1994 as the St. Barnabas After School Program. Funding from the city's Health Human and Housing Services pot and the Bainbridge Foundation kept the project alive, until the decision to terminate the SBCC at the end of the just-completed school year was reached at the vestry's April 19 meeting. But the recognition that solving youth problems can be more complex a process than it appears extends beyond the issue of funding. Which is why Tiernan is expressed hope that other circles of outreach will fulfill the community needs for child care. As cause for optimism, Tiernan and Smith cited the local Community Connections For Youth initiative, which the Glaser Foundation agreed to fund in September. In applying for its own major grants, the city is exploring and moving toward the centralized provision of child care administered through its Health, Human and Housing Services Department, Tiernan said, taking heart from studies for youth services currently under way.As an example of the good use to which the church's space was put, Erskine cited the happy quiet times held in the churchyard, and warmed to the memory of director Kathleen Cornelson Smith's determination to create a relationship-centered environment where children were not hurried through childhood. She was not alone in her sentiments, judging by the attendance of some 25 kids and their parents at the center's farewell party Wednesday. Those parents gathered for the last time recalled the hub of food, fun and games that the church provided for their kids, agreed that the atmosphere of the center could not be replaced.The children learned a certain graciousness at St. Barnabas, Erskine said."

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