Meriter’s New Children’s Center Becomes Community Benefit

Meriter’s new Children’s Center, on the corner of Mills and Mound Streets, won’t be complete until this fall, but it’s already improving the care of children throughout Madison.

The center, one of only six percent of all child care facilities in the state with a five-star YoungStar rating, just donated dozens of  children’s toys and pieces of equipment to two other child care facilities in Madison  in order to help them achieve their five-star accreditation as well.

 “We are able to offer the best care in the state to our employees and their children,” said Meriter Children’s Center Manager Martha Harrison. “But at the end of the day, Meriter wants all children in our community to have access to that same level of care, especially those who might not otherwise be able to afford it.” 

With her children’s center preparing to move to a new home near around the corner, Harrison began taking stock of the all the equipment and toys the center owned. When it became clear that not everything could make the move and might have to be discarded, Harrison instead worked with a child care accreditor from the city of Madison to find new homes for these items.

The center’s accreditor told Harrison about two other centers in Madison, Sandbox and Precious Moments, which provided great care in low-income areas but were unable to reach the top rating simply because they didn’t have the right supplies. That’s where Meriter stepped in.

“My accreditor put me in touch with Meriter. I informed Meriter of the different items Sandbox required, and they invited me over and told me that I could take anything I needed,” said Angela Ferguson, owner of Sandbox.

Thanks to the donations from Meriter, everything from play kitchens to books to shelving units, Sandbox has reached full accreditation and Precious Moments is going through the accreditation process right now.  This means children in low-income areas of Madison now have access to the highest level of care and for many; it’s even more affordable now.

“I have some parents who don’t qualify for state funding,” said Ferguson. “Because our center is now accredited, they are eligible to receive assistance from the city of Madison to help them pay for childcare.”

Meriter’s mission to minimize waste in the new facility doesn’t stop there.  Drop side cribs that had been recalled will be repurposed as plant supports in a new garden, where children will grow vegetables for their own snacks.  In addition, the Children’s Center will be partnering in Meriter’s CSA program, utilizing unclaimed produce as the foundation for their Friday lunch menu, educating children on the importance of fresh food.    

Two homes on S. Mills Street were demolished in late 2012 to make room for the new Children’s Center, but even those became a community benefit.  Habitat for Humanity ReStore salvaged many items from the two homes, while the Madison Fire Department used both buildings for training exercises.

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