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Dragon Boats, Kids and Fun, Oh My!

Photo provided Dragon Boat Race participants are shown plying the waters of the Ohio River at last year’s event to benefit King’s Daughters.

WHEELING — Not many organizations established in the late 1800s can say they are still up and running today. Yet that’s just the case on 13th Street in East Wheeling where King’s Daughters Child Care Center continues to meet the needs of working families.

The child care program is offered weekdays from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. for children ages 6 weeks to 5 years. The facility includes pre-school and pre-K curriculums, toddlers’ program and infant care. The facility will have 74 children enrolled by November. Currently there are 63 youngsters, of which about 40 percent receive financial assistance due to lower income levels.

King’s Daughters in Wheeling is a branch of the International Order of King’s Daughters and Sons. This local branch was a result of women joining the workforce in the 19th century, in particular as stogie rollers at the Marsh-Wheeling Tobacco Co., in the production of yard goods at J.L. Stifel & Sons, and sorting and packing handblown glassware at various glass factories once thriving along the Ohio River.

Today its mission continues to care for children in a nurturing, safe environment, encouraging educational experiences which promote social, emotional, physical and cognitive development. With a staff of 20, the center operates with a community-based volunteer board of directors.

Executive Director Jamie Remp has been at the center’s helm since 2014. She said while the center is on solid financial footing due to grants and fees, the facility is looking to raise funds to continue improvements to the property with a possible expansion.

The fifth annual Dragon Boat Race to benefit King’s Daughters will take place on Saturday, Aug. 24 at Wheeling’s Heritage Port. Beginning at 8:30 a.m. and continuing through 3 p.m., more than 20 teams are expected to hit the water and paddle their way to awards.

Dragon Boat racing is all about power — people power. Teams of 20 coordinate their efforts to pull through the water, seemingly effortlessly. It is competitive, adrenaline-kicking fun in which to participate and watch. Paddlers race in authentic 46-foot long Chinese dragon boats. Spectators will enjoy a festival atmosphere with all the amenities including food vendors, music, balloons and face painting for the kids.

King’s Daughters in Wheeling occupied several locations over the decades from a site near the first B&O Station in the industrialized area of the city, to South Wheeling, then Woodsdale and to two East Wheeling properties.

A financial bequest in 1971 enabled King’s Daughters to purchase the Bethlehem Temple at 60 13 St. and several lots across the street which became a parking area. This remains the location for today’s operations.

Remp said her staff, including center director Jasmine Reynolds, makes the facility the much in-demand program it is today. “Jasmine was here as a child and as an adult, starting working as a child care provider. She earned a degree in children care education and later a business management degree from Wheeling Jesuit University. She brings a great enthusiasm to this job,” Remp commented.

Under Remp’s direction, the child care center has undergone a full kitchen remodel in 2016, thanks to donations and remodeling of the Toddler 1 and 2 Rooms in 2018. Renovations for Toddler Room 1 were made possible through a donation from the family and friends of Stephanie and Stuart Bloch. More than $30,000 in donations and a $10,000 grant came from the Bloch Family Foundation, Remp said. Local artist Rachel Goodman is planning to honor the Blochs by adding a mural in the Toddler 1 Room.

Donations from foundations, including the J.B. Chambers Foundation, helped the facility to add security cameras in every classroom, in the play yards and outside the center.

This year’s projects include a remodel of the infant, preschool and pre-K rooms. This is being accomplished thanks to an anonymous donor.

“The Robinson Parlin Trust has been instrumental in awarding us grants over the past few years. These grants have helped us replace many classroom materials for science, dramatic play, art and gross and fine motor skills,” Remp noted.

Proceeds from the Dragon Boat Race will help further the improvements to accommodate children, staff and parents.

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