Baxter Community Center kicked off 2012 by filling a vital need in caring for their youngest clients when they opened a colorful new room filled with toddler toys. The sign on the door reads, “Ms. Melanie’s Sparrows.” Ellen Satterlee, CEO of The Wege Foundation, used her “naming” opportunity as one of Baxter’s 2011 St. Francis award winners by honoring Baxter’s long-time director Melanie Beelen.
The “Sparrows” name comes from the Biblical phrase, “His eye is on the sparrows” emphasizing God’s love for little children. By January 2012, nine 15-36 month-old toddlers were happy guests in Ms. Melanie’s room with more sparrows on the waiting list. This new room allows Baxter’s pre-schoolers to be divided into age-appropriate rooms: Little Lambs, two weeks-15 months, and King’s Kids ages three- to five-years old.
Baxter’s pre-school program is open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. and has earned the highest level of national accreditation. While 4-1 is the required child-teacher ratio, Baxter’s Little Lambs have one teacher for three infants.
This new Sparrow room for pre-schoolers was made possible thanks to Baxter’s successful November 2011 fundraiser. That was when Melanie Beelen announced Ellen Satterlee (top left) and Janice Flowers (bottom left), Coordinator of Baxter’s Women, Infants and Children program, as the recipients of the St. Francis Award. These women’s contributions to Baxter are reflected in the opening lines of St. Francis’s Prayer: Lord, make me an instrument of your peace; where there is hatred, let me sow love; where this is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair hope; where there is darkness, light…
The Baxter Community Center grew out of the 1960s race riots when members of Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church stepped in to bring people together. In 1967 the church converted its nearby Baxter Christian School into a haven where neighbors white and black could gather in a safe and supportive setting. BCC began with tutoring and gradually added preschool classes, day care, adult literacy, and counseling. Today its programs also include medical and dental clinics, tax preparations, food, and clothing help. From the beginning, Baxter’s message has been “to reveal God’s love by Christian witnessing.”