WEST WYOMING — When the Cookie Corner Child Care Center first opened, its roster included just four children.
Today, over 140 families per year drop their children off at the center.
Monday, Feb. 1 will mark 35 years since the child care center opened its doors in 1981 by current owner and operator, Donna Brenner, and her older sister, Sandie Charney.
The center’s building, located at 272 W. 8th St., was originally built and owned by their parents so their dad, Dante Begliomini, could run his own business, Tri-County Battery, Co.
Brenner then purchased the building and began immediately making additions additions to the building and turning it into what it is today, while her sister chose to teach children elsewhere.
“We really put a lot of time into this,” said Brenner. “We accommodated the nursery school and added a second floor for the toddlers.”
The center qualifies as a private facility and is dually licensed by both the Department of Child Welfare and the Department of Education and is not funded by either state or federal subsidies.
The child care center is for children ages 18 months to pre-kindergarten with morning and afternoon programs for each age group.
Brenner said some children are full-time members and some part-time, meaning they are only at the center a few days a week.
Each age group learns different skills, and the older the group, the more advanced their learning.
Toddlers learn movement and motion skills while preschool students learn various subjects such as math, reading, English and even sign language, which are readiness activities for when they move to kindergarten.
Brenner said when the center first opened they only operated during the school year, and competition made success difficult in the first few years
When the center decided to offer programs year round, word of mouth amongst people in the area helped give the business some publicity.
“The hardest part was the initial opening,” Brenner said. “We started in the middle of school year which was a disadvantage, and it was a chance that we took. After that, once we got it rolling it was much easier.”
The Cookie Corner Child Care Center has 15 staff members, including full-time teachers, part-time teachers, assistant teachers, group supervisors, assistant group supervisors and aides.
While some staff members have been there for years, a few have only just begun their careers, like 22-year-old Sarah Crane.
The Wilkes-Barre resident said she is currently working full-time at the center while finishing up earning her degree in early childhood education at Luzerne County Community College in Nanticoke.
While she has only been on staff for less than a year, Crane said she works with both the toddlers and the older children.
“I like it because it’s a challenge,” she said of working with all age groups. “Doing different things with the kids upstairs, because their so young and then doing things with the older kids; I love it. I really do.”
One of the hardest parts about being a staff member, according to Toni Tabone, 39, is saying goodbye to the students as they leave to go onto bigger schools for kindergarten.
The West Pittston resident has been a Cookie Corner staff member for 17 years and said she always does her best to follow up with the students as they grow older.
She said she even had a former student approach her at a grocery store not too long ago.
“I had this one girl come up to me and asked me ‘Are you Ms. Tossi?’ I had her right before I got married,” said Tabone. “I said, ‘I am,’ and she remembered me. I could cry just thinking about it. It’s just the most rewarding job anyone could ever have. To see how much they grow; it’s like a family. These kids are like my kids.”
Brenner says her staff is the backbone of the child care center, but without the support of the students and their parents the business would not be where it is today.
“They took a chance on us when we had only four kids,” she said. “From then to today, I will be forever grateful to the parents because they are what keep us alive.”
Reach Jimmy Fisher at 570-704-3972 or on Twitter @SD_JimmyFisher