Sebastian Origel, 3, celebrates as he finishes his painting at Concord Child Care Center in Concord, Calif., on Monday, Nov. 16, 2015. Sebastian has been going to the center since he was 18 months. (Susan Tripp Pollard/Bay Area News Group)


Single mom finds lifeline through Concord Child Care Center

Bay Area News Group

Published November 2015

Note: This story is from our 2015 campaign and has been fulfilled, but you can still donate to the Share the Spirit general fund.

Every night after work, Deniz Saenz would start the same routine: Call the neighborhood babysitters and see who was available to watch her infant son, Sebastian, the next day while she prepped food at her restaurant job.

“I would be calling 10 different ladies to see who can take care of him,” the single mother said. “It was really a struggle.”

As she left Sebastian each day, Saenz worried whether he would get proper care or educational opportunities from caregivers who were often overwhelmed with other kids. So, she signed up for the Concord Child Care Center and dutifully checked on her waiting-list status until 2013, when she was accepted into the free child care program.

“They’ve been so helpful to me in so many ways,” the 24-year-old Concord resident said from the center’s office. “I feel safe dropping him off here.”

The child care facility, which opened across the street from Meadow Homes Elementary School in 1972, serves 147 children ages 18 months to second grade, providing a full-day child care and after-school care.

The services are free for low-income and needy parents who live or work in Concord. The center also provides a nutrition program, including free breakfast, lunch and afternoon snack.

“We provide quality child care, not just affordable,” said Executive Director Brenda Brown.

But it’s always a struggle. State cutbacks reduced the center’s hours from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., to 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Brown said. More families in the neighborhood are clamoring for the service but must wait, like Saenz did, for an opening.

“Seriously, this is so sad,” Brown said, “but there are probably about 200 valid applications on file.”

Concord Child Care Center has received funding for its holiday program this year from Share the Spirit, an annual campaign to enhance the holiday season for needy residents in the East Bay. The grant is administered by the Volunteer Center of the East Bay, and donations support more than 30 nonprofit agencies in Contra Costa and Alameda counties.

On a recent Wednesday, 3-year-old Sebastian played with other children in a sand box near a giant rubber tire, part of a sprawling backyard play area at the Concord facility, and ran to his mother as she walked into the yard. She immediately cleaned the sand out of his Spider-Man shoes before he grabbed his Jake and the Neverland Pirates backpack and showed mom the painting he made her that day.

“He loves it here,” Saenz said. “I can see it in his face. He always has a story to tell me when he gets home.”

On a recent physical, Sebastian was tested for his eyesight and was shown all sorts of shapes.

“He knew all the answers, and the nurse asked how old he was,” the proud mother said. “She was surprised he was so young.”

Brown said the donations will go toward getting every child a $25 gift card that can be used for a present, groceries or other items for the family.

Most of the families sending children to the center can walk from their homes in Monument Boulevard neighborhoods. . Eligibility is based on income, while need is based on parents who work, or are actively seeking work or getting a degree.

Brown remembers one mother who sent her daughter to the center while she earned her nursing degree, eventually becoming a nurse and no longer qualifying for the services. The daughter, now 26 years old, Brown said, just received her nursing degree as well.

“We’re truly a big family,” Brown smiled.

The center has benefitted Saenz as well as her son. The young mother has become the Parent Advisory Committee president, running parent meetings through the center, even traveling to Washington, D.C., to represent the agency.

“They’ve helped me grow as a person and as a single mom,” she said.

How to help

The Share the Spirit campaign, sponsored by the Bay Area News Group, enhances the November/December holiday season for the most needy residents of Alameda and Contra Costa counties by funding nonprofit holiday and outreach programs.

On donation page, please select
"Concord Child Care Center"

Note: This story was fulfilled, but you can still donate to the general fund

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