The Loving Hand's Children's Center is close to opening its doors at the First Baptist Church.

A much needed day care center is very close to opening it's doors in Pratt.

The Loving Hands Children Center could be operating in just a couple of weeks once the final state fire marshall report is approved by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, said Sherry Morford, Loving Hands director who is spearheading the plans to get the day care up and running.

Loving Hands has leased the educational wing of the First Baptist Church at 121 South Ninnescah for their day care. They will be licensed for 50 children ranging in ages from 3 through 14 but Morford said she chose to stop at age 10.

The facility will run year round and be open before and after school. Most of the all-day care will go to children ages 3, 4 and 5 plus before and after school care for children that are already in school.

Morford and one of her co-workers in the Loving Hands project, Betty Dilling, who will be Loving Hands assistant director, both worked at the Sacred Heart day care before it was closed down. A lot of people remember them at Sacred Heart and are waiting to send their children to Loving Hands when the facility is open. Both Morford and Dilling miss the children and are anxious to get the day care going again.

"We are so ready to open. We miss our kids so much," Morford said. "We have families waiting for us to get open. We've had a wonderful response that way."

Morford will have no problem filling the day care when it opens. She has had lots of inquiries from parents who have been looking for day care for a long time in Pratt.

"Pratt is in desperate need of qualified child care and early childhood educational programs and that is what we will offer," Morford said.

The facility is very close to ready. The classrooms have all been prepared and supplies are ready. The state requires a dishwasher and it is on its way. The fire alarm system have to be installed but other than that, the building is ready to go. Morford hopes to have everything ready for an Oct. 19 opening.

"We're getting very close to opening," Morford said.

While the building is almost ready to go, Loving Hands is short on staff members. They have three now but need another five to handle the anticipated work load of students. Qualifications require a person who is at least 18 years old, has at least a high school diploma and has had at least six months experience in a licensed health care facility. Morford said they can work with the applicant to get approval if they don't have six months of child care experience. Those wanting to apply can contact the staff at 620-508-6084.

Several people have helped make this project a reality. Pratt County Public Health Director Darcie VanDerVyver has been in contact with state officials to help get the program faster.

The majority of the funds for the Loving Hands project has been made possible by a private investor while another investor has donated more funds to help get the doors open. This project is receiving no grant money.

"They (investors) felt like God wanted them to get involved. I think we've had a lot of divine intervention," Morford said. "God's timing isn't ours."

While everything is ready to open the doors, Loving Hands needs paper for the children to draw on. Any kind of paper will do, Morford said.

Once the facility has been open for a while, they will hold an open house. But for right now they are waiting for final fire marshall approval.

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