City and private donors step in, rescue Tide Point day care center

The Baltimore Sun

The Tide Point Day Care and Early Education Center isn't closing after all.

After months of scrambling to find other high-quality day care near downtown, parents learned last week that the seven-year-old center near the waterfront is keeping its doors open, thanks to help from the city and private donors.

"We have been able ... to put together a way to meet our mission," said Tom Curcio, chief executive officer of the Board of Child Care of the United Methodist Church, which runs the day care center.

Four months ago, the program's prospects seemed dismal. The center, which served 180 families, had been operating at a deficit since its inception, Curcio said. Worse, the center's goal of setting aside 30 percent of its slots for children from low-income families had not been met.

So in February, Curcio announced that the center would close.

"With an ongoing deficit, being a nonprofit, how do you justify supporting the program if you can't say you're helping those who are less fortunate?" Curcio said.

The decision panicked parents but prompted advocates to act.

"There's a great deal of work that has occurred in the last four months, sort of behind the scenes," Curcio said.

The center's landlord and a key supporter, Struever Bros. Eccles & Rouse, provided funding, though it won't say how much. So did Baltimore's Safe and Sound Campaign. Both have pledged additional funding.

More money has to be raised, Curcio said, and to close some of the remaining gap, most of the center's parents will pay 9 percent more in monthly fees.

"That will put us with the same tuition rates as most of the other major centers in the city," Curcio said.

C. William Struever, chief executive officer of Struever Bros., Eccles and Rouse, said he felt compelled to help the Tide Point center, which he called "a glorious program."

Struever praised its curriculum, staffing ratio, treatment of employees and the benefits that children who attend receive from a mixed-income environment.

"The chance for some of the neediest children in Baltimore to be in this marvelous setting in Tide Point with children from other backgrounds is a truly amazing and wondrous opportunity for young children," Struever said.

In February, 22 of the center's families were deemed low-income. Today, 15 come from disadvantaged homes, Curcio said.

Along with funding, supporters - such as the Safe and Sound Campaign - are working on recruitment and retention plans, Curcio said. The goal is to have at least 50 low-income children enrolled by September.

"There's still a lot of work to be done," he said, "but we're encouraged."

In addition, Struever and Curcio said, Struever Bros. has committed to helping the program's leaders build their own center in Locust Point in the next three years.

"This is a happy ending," Curcio said. "Hopefully, it will turn out to be a win-win situation for everyone, but most importantly for the children."

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