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Lighthouse Mission plans Bellingham child-care center for mothers at Agape Home

If fundraising and construction stay on schedule, Lighthouse Mission Ministries could open its new child-care center within a few months. It might even open by May 10, which is Mother’s Day.

That would be appropriate, because the center is designed to provide free care for children of mothers who are staying at the mission’s Agape Women’s and Children’s Home.

“It’s going to be nice to give the moms a break,” said Ron Buchinski, executive director of Lighthouse Mission Ministries.

Agape provides shelter for single women and for mothers with young children at F and West Holly streets, catty-corner from the original Lighthouse Mission and across the street from the mission’s New Life Center. The mission’s daytime drop-in center is just up the street at 1013 W. Holly.

Agape used to be in a small house on Yew Street Road, but its building in Old Town has 23 rooms, with first-floor space for moms with kids and the second floor for single women. About 15 children usually live there at any one time.

Their mothers might be at Agape for a day or for a year as they rebound from abusive relationships, homelessness, substance abuse and other problems. Agape has a small inside playroom for children, but it’s near the kitchen and other public rooms, so there’s little privacy.

The mission and its supporters are now raising $87,500, with most of the money earmarked for a staffed child-care center in the ground floor of the New Life Center building.

Once the child-care center opens, Agape mothers will have a nearby place for their child or children to be cared for while they attend GED or mission classes, talk to counselors, keep medical and legal appointments, and do whatever else they need to to rebuild their lives.

A part-time mission employee with child-care credentials will staff the center, freeing the mothers of that responsibility when they have pressing matters to attend to.

“It would be nice if they didn’t have to do child care when they’re in a sensitive appointment,” Buchinski said.

The child-care center will occupy former warehouse space that is now mostly cleared. The space is already heated and has sprinklers, so construction should proceed quickly. Interiors wall will be erected to create the carpeted child-care room, leaving hallways on the perimeter. A new bathroom will be plumbed across the hall.

The budget envisions spending about $30,000 to build the care center, and $25,000 for a part-time child-care worker for the first two years.

“It’s going to be a very secure room with adult supervision,” Buchinski said.

The campaign also will raise money for equipment and furniture for the child-care center, and $25,000 for new floor coverings and new lounge and kitchen furniture in Agape.

A list of equipment needed for the child-care center includes a kid-size table and chairs, a training toilet, a story-time rug, a small refrigerator, and a microwave to warm baby formula.

Tony Larson, of Whatcom Business Alliance, is campaign chairman for the project. He expects strong support from the business community because the center would help Agape mothers get back on their feet and, in some cases, reunite with their children.

“It’s a service that moves people toward self-sufficiency,” Larson said.

To help

To donate money or equipment for the child-care center for Agape mothers, call 360-671-1562 or 360-733-5120.