Last summer Baton Rouge residents experienced devastating floods that destroyed buildings and displaced many families from their homes and schools, including two KinderCare centers: Greenwell Springs Road, and O’Neal Lane.
“For over 30 years Greenwell Springs Road and O’Neal Lane have been a part of the Baton Rouge Community, and in a flash both were gone,” said KinderCare District Manager Debra Gilbert. “So many of our families, and 18 members of our team, lost everything. Our children lost their homes and their schools.”
The O’Neal Lane and Greenwell Springs centers were so heavily damaged by the floods they had to close for repairs, sending their 152 families and students to the other two KinderCare centers in the area.
Everyone spoke of “needing normal” and KinderCare staff at all four centers worked hard to provide children and families with a sense of stability in the midst of the chaos the floods caused.
The undamaged Picardy and Floynell centers opened their doors to Greenwell Springs and O’Neal families and staff. One parent drove 60 miles a day to the Picardy KinderCare so her child could stay with her favorite teacher while her center was repaired.
In February, for the first time in nearly six months, all four Baton Rouge KinderCare centers opened their doors to families. The centers celebrated their reopening with a morning luau. Since “aloha” means both “hello” and “goodbye,” children and teachers said “goodbye” to the friends they made at the host centers and “hello” to the friends they reunited with at their home center.
“I have my school back,” said Catrina Toy, Greenwell Springs center director. “I have some part of normal and I can’t express how happy I am.”
Getting back to normal was Debra’s goal for her team – and the drive to make that happen is integral to her character.
“Many don’t know that I worked with [Debra] once before just shortly after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans,” said Jamee Thrush, SVP of KinderCare Field. “She was still in a FEMA trailer and even with all of her personal loss, she was as steady as rock. I can’t think of a more prepared leader who is hard-wired to just do the right thing.”
More than 80 childcare providers were impacted by last summer’s floods, and although many are undergoing repairs, there still aren’t enough providers to serve all of Baton Rouge’s children. That’s what made this celebration so impactful for the entire community: With the reopening of these two centers, all four KinderCare centers now have space to welcome new families. In fact, the need for care is so great that a competitor began referring the families on her center’s wait list to KinderCare as soon as she heard the Greenwell Springs and O’Neal Lane centers were open again.
While many in Baton Rouge continue to rebuild, a sense of normal has returned to four schools and hundreds of the community’s youngest students.
Welcome back Greenwell Springs and O’Neal Lane!