Care keeps center growing
Owner sees need in area

By AMANDA VOSS - Daily News

Nov. 6, 2014

Site coordinator Crystal Yepez sits with children during a snack period at the Little Friends Learning Center on Tuesday afternoon in West Bend.
Photo by John Ehlke

Brooke San Felippo, owner of Little Friends Learning Center in Grafton, West Bend and Barton, was a single mom looking for a good child care center to take her daughter to, but became upset when she couldn’t find one.

“There was a lack of love or compassion or even education,” San Felippo said. “There was nothing in the programming and I really went home and I was totally upset.”

It inspired San Felippo to open a day care center; nearly 20 years ago, she opened the first Little Friends Learning Center in Grafton, 1234 10th Ave., and it expanded to West Bend, 929 N. River Road, and to Barton, 7019 Highway 144 North, which opened Oct. 10.

“I started in Cedarburg out of my home and then we moved to Grafton,” San Felippo said. “Then we expanded in Grafton and in 2012 we opened in West Bend. That center filled faster that I think we’ve ever filled a center, so we’re almost to capacity there. We started looking for another location in this area.

She decided they could make this work.

The alphabet hung along a wall at the Little Friends Learning Center.
Photo by John Ehlke

Little Friends Learning Center is state-licensed and offers experienced and educated staff, a daily hot lunch program and before and after school child care.

The educational programs includes preschool, 3K and 4K programming, and features emergent curriculum.

San Felippo said six teachers at the center in Barton have to go over shapes, colors, letters or numbers and then expand on that. They also have a theme to go along with the curriculum.

Joy Bastian, co-owner and director of the Little Friends Learning Center in Barton said, “One (theme) coming up is give thanks. “Teachers use that as their hub and break it down into different days and pick projects to do every day.”

Each child has a portfolio with a developmental checklist. San Felippo said each developmental portfolio is for a specific age group. Parents can see a record of what’s been accomplished and the date their child accomplished it.

“We use that to set goals and it’s implemented into the lesson plan,” Bastian said. “Lesson plans all have the kids’ goals in the them. The hope is these kids eventually, through that model, reach the goals they haven’t yet reached. It’s a continuous curriculum. They keep learning more and more.”

 Hilary Ellis of West Bend plays with infants during a snack period.
Photo by John Ehlke

The curriculum prepares the children at Little Friends Learning Center for school. Bastian said everything they’ve taught them is beyond what they need to know.

“Our hope is they can go in and be comfortable in the classrooms and socialize with other children,” Bastian said. “We know how to develop a curriculum so by the time they get into school they have the checklists and portfolios.”

San Felippo said they decided to open in Barton because they knew Barton Elementary School was closing and it would be difficult for parents.

While San Felippo said opening a new Little Friends Learning Center is fun, it can be nerve-racking with things like training staff and making sure everything’s in the rooms. “Little things that you missed because you’re not working yet,” San Felippo said. “Enrolling is always fun, but it’s difficult in the beginning because they’re all new.”

 C.Ds used to mimic the burners of a stove at the Little Friends Learning Center.
Photo by John Ehlke

She said during the first two or three weeks they are comforting the children and building parents’ trust.

Because the building where Little Friends Learning Center used to be a day care center it only took about three weeks to get it ready.

San Felippo said they cleaned, painted walls and murals, and redid the floors.

She said she would encourage parents to bring their children there because the staff cares for the safety and education of the children.

“So much so we talk about it on nights and weekends,” San Felippo said. “I think this is one of the better centers and I’m not just saying that because it’s mine. We work really hard so that’s a very positive place for children and families.”

The Little Friends Learning Center entrance shown Tuesday afternoon in West Bend.
Photo by John Ehlke

San Felippo said the staff goes above and beyond.

“We do get a lot of foster care children,” San Felippo said. “If we know they were sent to their home in the middle of the night and had no clothes. I will make sure we go to our warehouse and we will dig stuff out for these families. We go above and beyond to take care parts of the community that can sometimes be forgotten.”

Little Friends Learning Center is open from 5:45 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday through Friday. For more information, call 262-384-0333.