Written by Dawn Walton, Quality Improvement Consultant
Paula Addison runs Paula’s Playhouse, a licensed child care facility in Muskegon Heights. Paula was an early adapter into the Great Start to Quality Tiered Rating System and has reached many quality improvement goals since her involvement. She moved from family child care to group, and now provides care for multiple shifts. She successfully obtained her CDA certificate, has completed numerous early childhood trainings, joined and participates monthly in the Muskegon Child Care Connections group, added annual screenings to her program as well as parent-teacher conferences.
The area in which Paula’s home is located is challenging, with frequent incidents of crime and a lack of area resources for families. Despite the difficult circumstances, however, Paula has created a safe and nurturing environment for the children in her care.
One area that Paula has struggled with is access to safe and age-appropriate outdoor learning areas. Less than two years ago, Paula purchased the lot next to her home after a condemned house was torn down. Her goal was to transform the lot into an outdoor play area where high-risk children from the city can have the opportunity to engage in safe activities that allow them to explore nature and develop age-appropriate physical, cognitive and social skills.
Together, Paula, myself and Health & Safety Specialized Consultant Shelley Kubczak developed a step-by-step plan to bring this goal to fruition.
Paula purchased her first large piece of outdoor equipment nearly a year ago, but with winter quickly approaching and the land not yet leveled, it was decided to store the equipment and wait until spring to move forward. By the time spring arrived, we had made just enough progress on resources to move forward on the plan. Shelley and her family were able to level the land and the first piece of equipment was installed, followed by the addition of surfacing and fencing around the play area to adhere to safety requirements.
There have been many blessings along the way, including the generosity of Aaron, who built the fencing and helped reduce the price in any way he could. Additionally, Shelley and myself volunteered to haul and spread mulch to reduce costs. Paula saved money for quite some time for this project, but nearly all of it was needed for fencing and surfacing, so it was going to be a while before additional outdoor materials could be purchased – so we thought. But then, cycle 3 grants were announced to be funded again! Paula was one of the providers who submitted a grant in round 3 and was approved! It was perfect timing for Paula, who used nearly the entire $4,500 grant for outdoor materials. Next on the list of outdoor goals is to create a separate infant/toddler area and eventually add a track around the playground so children can ride their trikes/bikes in a safe area as well.
The community has taken notice of Paula’s hard work. As we were laying surfacing, several people from the local church walked over and were so impressed with the work Paula is doing that they decided to section off a piece of their church garden specifically for Paula’s Playhouse children to care for and take the vegetables grown to share with families and/or use in their meals!
Paula lights up a room with her positive attitude and sincere love for the children and families in her community. She continues to invest much of her time and money into providing quality care for them. Paula and her mother, who is her assistant, work closely together to ensure the children are provided with opportunities to support development and master skills that will support success in academics and in life well beyond the days spent in her home. Walking into Paula’s Playhouse is always the highlight of my month. Seeing the children’s faces light up when they arrived on their new playground was priceless, and seeing the pride in Paula’s face has been a true blessing.