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'Give us a chance': Debate over proposed 24/7 daycare in Sheboygan gets heated

daycare desert
Posted at 5:31 AM, Oct 27, 2021

SHEBOYGAN — Things are getting heated over a proposed 24/7 daycare facility on the north side of Sheboygan.

Some area neighbors who spoke out at a Sheboyan council meeting in September said, "My biggest concern as well is dealing with the policing." Another neighbor asked, "How is this going to improve my neighborhood?"

"I’m trying not to take anything personal," said Angel Berry, co-founder of A Milion Dreamz. She and her co-founder, Nena Bemis, have been working tirelessly for three years on a comprehensive plan to open a 24/7 non-profit childcare facility. It will include well-paid, trained childcare staff to serve children of all abilities. The plan would be to purchase the now abandoned Sheboygan Christian School on Geele Avenue, and renovate it to meet proper regulations.

The idea was born out of two mothers who have struggled to find childcare for their sons living with special needs. The youngest is Nena Bemis’ 9-year-old son Lukas. Up until three years ago, her son was non-verbal, adding, “The world is a bit of a different place, it is a bit of a scary place, because you don't know what might happen to your child.”

The women hope to help parents with children who have special needs find affordable childcare.

“I couldn't keep a job, I never finished my degree,” said Berry, who recalled struggling to have a career while raising her child with autism decades ago. “That’s exactly why we’re doing this.”

They plan to include children up until they turn 18. But that age range left some community members concerned. Some neighbors spoke out in a Sept. 20 Sheboygan Common Council meeting, with one saying, “I don’t understand why an 18 year old would need daycare?”

We asked Berry that very question. She explained, “We are looking at infants up to 17 [years old], because there is a huge gap for children with special needs.”

Another meeting this October helped people understand the layout of the proposed facility.

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A Million Dreamz proposed renovation layout after approved acquisition of former Sheboygan Christian School

“Each classroom is going to have a theme to it,” Berry explained. Much of this will be built with the help of volunteers in the community.

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'This children's play set left behind would be part of our "Fairy Tale" classroom," said Berry.

Plans for this non-profit to raise $1.3 million to remodel and hire trained staff is well underway. Berry got us up-to-date on what they have been able to raise so far. “After the purchase of the building, we are at $500,000," Berry said.

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Many items were left behind by the previous school, which Berry is excited to utilize.

“What do you think of some parents in the surrounding areas who are not in support of this?” asked reporter Julia Fello. Bemis answered, “I think they need to have an open mind. Give us a chance.”

Berry says she will continue to pursue this dream and remind everyone of the huge need. Saying in the September 2020 city council meeting about the need in Sheboygan alone, “There are 270 children sitting on wait list, 200 of them are under 30 months old.”

Plans for a final vote by the city council is set for Monday, Nov. 1.

We reached out to the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families to see if there are any current 24 hour day care facilities in the state. A spokeswoman told TMJ4 News there are dozens. None are in Sheboygan County. They also found there are three facilities with nighttime care within a 40-mile radius from Sheboygan. That’s compared to more than 700 facilities with nighttime care within a 40-mile radius in the Milwaukee area.

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