SPRINGFIELD – For over six decades, Grant Avenue Baptist has offered parents and guardians a place where children could be tended. That option ended Friday, Aug. 21.
“I’m quite sure it is the oldest church-run daycare in the state. I know it is the oldest daycare in Springfield,” said Janice Sartin, a teacher in the daycare for three years and the director for the last 47 years.
Funding, the need for upgraded facilities, and just being ready to retire are reasons Sartin has given for the change.
“I do this as a ministry. It would be hard to hire someone, and it would need to be a church member who could talk to the children and parents about church. Parents and children need a spiritual foundation. It’s a way to witness and share about the church,” she said.
“Right now, there are a lot of new facilities in Springfield. We’re equipped well, but if the church is going to do it, it should be the best.”
Sartin originally had other career plans.
“I felt called to Africa and wanted to work in a children’s home. The Foreign mission board (as it was known then) decided she shouldn’t go because of health criteria. I was devastated. But as Jeremiah said, God has a plan. God’s plan for me was to be right here and be a missionary right here. My mother heard of this job. I was hired.”
Sartin said Carrie Cave had the original vision for the daycare, and Marie Danforth was the second director. Janice was the third.
The number of children at one time was over 100. That dwindled as more day care options opened in Springfield. With the COVID-19, some parents were working from home and not sending children to daycare, and no new children were taken. Now the number of students is eight.
It would be an understatement to say lives have been changed. Multiple second-generation students have been in the daycare.
“Some who became teachers grew up as children of the daycare. Some have become preachers, doctors, teachers. But a lot of them have become good parents. That is important in so many leadership roles in their churches.”
Spiritually, she recalls one father who gave his life to Christ in her office.
“Every day is special. I never wake up and feel I don’t want to go to church or the daycare. I could not ask for a better place to work.”
One young girl told of wanting riches and a big home. Sartin used the response as a teaching moment: “I told her because I’m a Christian, I am rich with family and friends. And I’ve got a big home waiting for me (in heaven).”
Her life verse and favorite song are “This is the day,” based on Psalms 118:24.
Although retired, the rocking chair will have to wait.
“I plan to stay busy. I’m going to be a school reading buddy. I want to work at the Grand Oaks Mission. I still will teach first through fifth grade Sunday School, Vacation Bible School and plan the week of camp for the kids. Plus, I have family, including four great-grandchildren with whom I want to spend time.
“If a church knows of childcare needs, they should do this. It is a wonderful opportunity to share the love of God. It has been a blessing to do this.”