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Great Beginnings program presented to Rotary

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By Emily Banks Wooten
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Glenda RiffeGlenda RiffeGlenda Riffe, director of Great Beginnings Day Care which is associated with First United Methodist Church of Livingston, recently presented a program to the Rotary Club of Livingston.

Riffe said she grew up in Huntington and first went to church when she was two weeks old at the same church where her mother played organ. She said that during her teenage years she started working in the church nursery and at Vacation Bible School and babysat for people in her neighborhood, gaining lots of experience in childcare.

Riffe has been in childcare for 46 years and has been with Great Beginnings for 15 years.

“We were initially licensed for 64 children. Through the years we have expanded. We closed in the pavilion area and added some rooms and then became licensed for 250 children,” Riffe said.

She said the program implemented at Great Beginnings includes puzzles, Play-Doh, developmental strategies, blocks, an art center, music activities and reading because “Children learn best through play.

“We have invested a lot of money and time into implementing a program to help children learn. I’m a very hands-on director. I like being there when they come in. I like being there when they leave,” she said.

“We recently built a gym off of our playground. We are now licensed for 414 children and we have five buses. Great Beginnings has gone from this small facility to a large building with 35 teachers including me,” she said.

Riffe said that Covid was a scary time for them because Great Beginnings is like a family and they struggled like everyone else, trying to keep teachers and trying to keep everyone happy.

“There’s been a shift. I’m seeing more grandparents and great grandparents raising children than ever before. Parents have more needs now. We are seeing our parents struggling more and more and all we can do is just keep on keeping on,” Riffe said.

“I think Great Beginnings is just terrific. We couldn’t do it without our teachers, our parents, the Methodist Church. I get to minister to these people all the time and that is the biggest blessing for me,” Riffe said, adding that the school is affiliated with the Methodist Church and that the students read Bible verses and attend chapel.

“I just want to make sure these positive seeds about the Lord are being planted. Livingston, to me, is blessed to have all the childcare facilities it has, not just Great Beginnings, but all of them. I can stand here and describe what goes on at Great Beginnings everyday but it doesn’t come close to seeing it,” she said.

“We’re open from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. We serve a hot breakfast, a hot lunch and an afternoon snack. When our students leave Great Beginnings to go to kindergarten, they are speaking Spanish and they are reading on a second grade level,” she said.

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