STEUBENVILLE - Lately, Marie Zumpano's noticed more and more former students dropping by Neighborhood House with their own kids in tow.
"That's when you know you're making a difference, when they grow up and bring their children to you and say they don't want their kids with anybody but you," said Zumpano, director of the nonprofit child care service. "And it happens a lot."
Incorporated in 1937, Neighborhood House was created as a place for immigrants to learn English and take naturalization classes so they could become U.S. citizens. In the 1960s, however, it became the first licensed day care center in Jefferson County, providing affordable child care services for children ages 18 months to 15 years. Zumpano said they're currently trying to get certified to care for 12-month-olds as well.
HAVING FUN — Jaleyss Scales, 8, from left, and Kinsey Tucker, 5, and Delaney Tucker, 3, enjoy some play time at Neighborhood House in Steubenville. Neighborhood House, a United Way of Jefferson County agency, offers affordable child care to parents who otherwise might not be able to afford it. Neighborhood House Director Marie Zumpano says about 95 percent of the clients qualify for government-assisted child care. - Linda Harris
"We're on our second generation now," she said. "Many of our kids now are kids of our kids."
Neighborhood House is located at 423 South St. and is one of 19 member agencies of the United Way of Jefferson County, which is currently working toward a $440,000 campaign goal for 2013. Last year, Neighborhood House was allotted $8,000 from United Way.
"It's a lot of money for us," Zumpano said. "Last year, we actually spent $14,500 on occupancy alone - that's things like groceries and utilities. That's what we operate on, grant money and the generosity of people."
Neighborhood House serves children from a variety of circumstances, many of them while their parents work or are in school. Zumpano said about 95 percent of their clients qualify for government-assisted childcare, which means they pay a small monthly co-pay.
The program is currently licensed to handle up to 45 children, though at the moment they have about 30 children coming to them regularly for some portion of the day, and everything from lesson plans to physical activity, math, science, language arts and socialization is closely regulated by the state.
"We really can't cut staff, because we have to follow very strict staff-to-child ratio," she said. "But we have to serve breakfast, hot lunch and afternoon snacks, and it all has to meet nutritional standards."
Zumpano said the program couldn't function without United Way's help.
"The funding we get from United Way is vital," she said. "We've received that money because we're a non profit. All our funding goes to food, supplies and utilities - there's no profit here."
United Way Executive Director Beth Rupert-Warren said Neighborhood House provides a "safe, nurturing, loving environment for children in our community."
"Neighborhood House provides a great service," she said. "It's been in our community for years, and it meets the needs of so many families."