By Karen Hutchinson-Talaski
HERMISTON After 35 years of serving west Umatilla County families, the Hermiston Day Care Center is closing its doors, leaving 260 children without a place to go while their parents are at work.
The board of directors voted July 12 to permanently close the doors on Aug. 25. The decision also affects the Center's before- and after-school programs in the Hermiston School District.
"This is about the worst thing I've been through," said Director Kay Burns.
The decision was based on the fact the Center has not been able to generate enough income to sustain the programs. Burns has worked for the last several years without pay to help the cash flow, but to no avail.
In November, 100 letters were sent to prominent business and civic leaders, asking for donations to the non-profit organization.
Only two people returned the letter with pledges and both of those were from former Center board members.
Unlike Head Start programs, the Center does not receive any funding from the government. The Center is not supported by any local entity, either.
Most of the $220,000 budget comes from parents, who pay an hourly rate to drop their children for day care or pay a monthly fee for their children to take part in the Center's preschool. The Center also runs an before- and after school program called Kidspace at Highland Hills and Desert View Elementary Schools.
The Center's building, which was built by donations from Hermiston residents, will be sold. Burns is hoping another day care center will purchase the building and use it as such.
"That's what the building was built for," she said. "It is built with school specs. This is the community's building."
Since the Center owes money on the building, once it is sold the proceeds will go to pay its debts. The remaining funds will be distributed to other non-profit organizations in the area.
Burns says she is sorry to see the Center close but knows without a consistent cash flow, it cannot survive.
"My heart is here," Burns said, "and I've shed a lot of tears over this."