Open House for Children First Development Center

A new child care center will welcome students for its first day of operations on Monday, June 3. That’s when Children First Development Center will open its doors in what was once the Barker Center in Sturgeon Bay. 

An open house for the public is scheduled for Saturday, June 1 from 1-3 pm, at the facility located at 1743 Egg Harbor Road in Sturgeon Bay.

The opening is welcome news after two child care centers closed in the last seven months. Zion Early Childhood Center closed in December of 2023, leaving 60 children in flux, and Adventures Child Care Center in Southern Door closed in late February, impacting the families of another 24 children.

When Children First opens, administrator Kayla Lehman said the center will welcome 52 children. That number will increase to 60 by fall. The center is licensed for up to 68 children, but Lehman said their plan is to grow slowly into the space. 

Lehman handles the business end of Children First, bringing an accounting background to the operation. Lori Torbeck, who previously worked for Door Community Child Development Center and the Barker Center, will serve as the center’s director.

The board has raised $425,000 of its $750,000 goal so far. Those funds will cover the cost of the building purchase, as well as renovations to the space and improvements to the playground areas. 

Volunteers from the YMCA and Habitat for Humanity helped paint the interior spaces and the Door County Master Gardeners assisted in creating a sensory garden for children. 

Lehman has first-hand experience with the county’s child care shortage. She was seven months pregnant and working full-time when she learned the YMCA was closing the Barker Center in June of 2020. 

Now she said it’s gratifying to be part of an organization filling some of the gap.  

“I like the purpose, and it gives me a lot of fulfillment,” Lehman said.