Shepherd’s New Child Care Center

Shepherd’s new child care center will set foundation for lifetime of learning

 

It doesn’t take much imagination to see what Christmas programs will one day look and sound like at the Minnie Hartmann Center on Indianapolis’ near east side.

As scores of young children sing carols, dozens of senior citizens will join in the songs and maybe a holiday skit or two. Generations at the beginning and late in life will come together to celebrate, to build community, and to learn from and encourage one another.

The Minnie Hartmann Child Care Center, a joint project of Shepherd Community Center and Near East Area Renewal, is much more than just another day care. The 11,000-square-foot center is unique because the newly renovated building that houses it connects with a senior housing complex. Connecting the two is a gym and stage that serve as a bridge between the centers and the generations.

Staff at the center, scheduled to open in early August on North Sherman Drive, will initially provide care for 70 children; eventually, 140 kids will grow and learn in the attractively updated building, which was the longtime home of IPS School 78.

“When we talk about our neighborhood and think about breaking the cycle of poverty, early childhood education is a huge part of the answer,” Andrew Green, Shepherd’s assistant executive director, said. “One of the major unmet needs in the area is providing a safe place for children as parents are at work or go to school.”

The center itself will be a source of new jobs in the neighborhood, adding 27 workers to care for children from infants to 4-year-olds. In fact, 10 of Shepherd’s neighbors are now in training at Ivy Tech in preparation for work at the center.

As Green noted, access to high quality child care is a critical need for every family, but it’s one that far too often goes unmet in Indianapolis and across the nation. That fact has enormous implications for millions of children, and for the nation’s quest for social and economic equity.

Researchers at Rutgers University have found that by the time African American children reach kindergarten they are on average almost nine months behind in math and seven months behind in reading compared to white non-Hispanic peers.

That gap in early learning carries enormous consequences that can linger not only during a child’s years in school but throughout a lifetime in terms of income, socio-economic status and even physical health.

The Rutgers researchers determined that African American children attend preschool at about the same rate as white children, but the quality of the schools is significantly lower. And it’s the quality of early childhood education that makes all the difference in children’s lives.

Green said the Minnie Hartmann center will open at Level One on the state’s four-stage Paths of Quality but should move quickly to Level Three, which means the staff will have shown they have the knowledge and skill needed to plan age-appropriate activities and lead children toward school readiness. Level Three status also means that the child care center’s operators have invested significantly in the staff’s professional development.

Shepherd is still hiring for positions at the center, and Green said volunteer opportunities eventually will become available as programming expands and social distancing needs allow.

To learn more about the Minnie Hartmann Child Care Center, contact Diana Reed at dianar@shepherdcommunity.org

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A plea for help: Here’s how Shepherd eased one man’s suffering

Hungry and in pain, the man was desperate for help. So he did what he knew to do: Call 911.

A dispatcher dutifully sent an ambulance, even though the man’s needs were not immediately life threatening, because often there’s simply no one else to send.

But this time members of Shepherd Community Center’s Shalom Project team heard the dispatch, recognized the address, and knew they could help.

“When we arrived, the patient was in the back of the ambulance, complaining of a whole host of issues,” Shane Hardwick, a Shepherd-subsidized city paramedic, said. “After speaking with the gentleman for a couple of minutes, we were able to decipher what the root cause of the 911 call was.”

The man, who has developmental disabilities, lives alone in a tiny room on the near east side. He has only a mattress on the floor. No table, chairs or lamps. No phone, TV or radio to connect him to the world outside. In the past, the Shalom team and others have offered to help the man find a better place to live, but he’s refused to move.

Life is hard in normal times for those caught in deep poverty on the city’s east side. The pandemic has made it immeasurably worse, especially for the vulnerable struggling with chronic conditions and constant needs.

In this man’s case, he had stopped receiving disability checks and couldn’t pay his rent or buy groceries. His medications also had run out. Alone and overwhelmed, he didn’t know how to navigate the system to get the help he needed.

“We saved the patient an ambulance ride by spending time working on the root issues,” Hardwick said. “The patient didn’t realize that the trustee’s office is indeed open but had adjusted their hours. He had no idea that his checks had been waiting on him. Moving forward, the check will now be sent to Shepherd and will be hand delivered to the patient. This gives us a reason to make monthly contacts with him.”

The Shalom team also gave the man an emergency food bag from the Shepherd pantry and added him to Shepherd’s shut-in list so that he can receive meals delivered to his room daily.

The team scheduled an appointment for the man at a medical clinic and arranged to have his medications sent to Shepherd, which will deliver them to his home.

The mission of the Shalom Project – with the support of partners such as Elanco, Gleaners, Ezkenazi Health and the Fuller Center for Housing – is to take Shepherd’s work to reduce poverty, crime and violence outside the walls of the community center and into the community.

Sometimes that means helping a neighbor by mowing a yard or painting a house. Sometimes it means delivering food to a family that’s lost a job. And sometimes it means answering a 911 call and intervening to meet the needs of someone who otherwise would be alone in the world.

To learn more about the Shalom Project, and to help support the team’s vital work, visit shepherdcommunity.org

 

How Elanco and Shepherd are standing together to serve neighbors

The lack of food, and especially the lack of healthy food, is a constant challenge for millions of American families even in the best of times. This year, as we all know, has been far from the best of times.

Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization, estimates that this year 54 million Americans may suffer from uncertain or limited access to enough food because of the coronavirus pandemic. That’s more than 16 percent – or about one in six – of all Americans.

The team at Shepherd Community Center can attest to that reality on Indianapolis’ near east side, where the unemployment rate soared and the lack of access to nutritious food reached critical levels this winter and spring because of the pandemic.

In response, Shepherd Community staff, working closely with partners such as Elanco Animal Health, distributed thousands of food boxes, sack breakfasts and sack lunches to east side neighbors.

Shepherd Executive Director Jay Height recently discussed the challenges and solutions of chronic hunger in a Facebook Live chat with Elanco President and CEO Jeff Simmons.

Simmons noted the swift and generous pandemic response from Indianapolis’ corporate community, which raised $1.5 million to help families in need. And he pointed out the great work of Shepherd partners such as Fair Oaks Farms, Indiana Pork Producers, Midwest Poultry, Harlan Bakeries and Rose Acre Farms to provide food for thousands of families.

But he also said that the fight against hunger in Indianapolis, the nation and around the worlds needs to focus on sustainability for the long term.

“Every time we do food relief like we did with COVID-19, we need to say, this isn’t the right way long term,” Simmons said. “Companies like Elanco need our dollars to go to programs and partners like Shepherd that say our job is to help people stand up. It’s livelihoods; it’s jobs. It’s what Shepherd does. It’s whole life support. It’s why Shepherd is so unique, and I encourage anyone to get activated in organizations like Shepherd.”

This year, like no other in recent decades, has exposed our nation’s, and our city’s, deep needs. Those needs go well beyond chronic hunger and include such foundational challenges as unequal access to high quality education, health care, housing and family-sustaining jobs.

As Simmons noted, Shepherd is deeply invested in addressing each of those needs on Indy’s east side. And the organization’s reach continues to grow.

Height noted that Shepherd recently installed a large deep freezer so that it can provide meat and other perishables to east side neighbors for the long haul.

Shepherd staff, in partnership with Near East Area Renewal, also are busy preparing for the opening of a new child care center at the Minnie Hartmann Center. The center not only will provide high quality care for 140 children once it’s at capacity, but it also will offer good jobs to workers in the neighborhood and give parents the flexibility needed to land family-sustaining jobs of their own. (Look for a post about the Minnie Hartmann Child Care Center soon).

It’s all about, as Jeff Simmons put it, helping neighbors to stand up.

And in this time of great challenges and great needs, people who have the means need more than ever to stand up for those in need.

“This world doesn’t need interested people,” Simmons said. “It needs invested people.”

To learn more about how you can invest with Shepherd in serving neighbors on the east side, go to https://www.shepherdcommunity.org/become-involved/