What she began six years ago as WeVillage, a fledgling drop-in daycare in the Pearl district of Northwest Portland, owner Karen Beninati has developed into a four-site business employing 30 child care specialists. The most recent opening on August 10 at 1901 N.E. Broadway complemented the other sites, the Pearl, Orenco in Washington County and Happy Valley in Clackamas County, to provide “full, creative care—not just hanging out” for the children of 5,000 families.
Beninati told the Hollywood Star News she saw a huge gap in child care, “…when my son Luca was young. I could not find one place that I felt comfortable about leaving him.” She added “I wanted to provide an environment where parents wanted to leave their kids and kids wanted to go.” Her early work as a movie producer in California gave her the skills to produce another kind of product to enhance the lives of youngsters and help their families at the same time.
Beninati has evolved her responsibilities to coordinating behind-the scenes operations, but she can still be found welcoming parents and kids in her own personal, vibrant manner. Reminiscing about her 2009 efforts to attract clients in the Pearl, Beninati said, “I made a point of interacting with parents, hustling to seek out mommy groups and let them know what WeVillage could offer them and their children.” She joined and became an active member of neighborhood associations and business groups. As explained on the WeVillage web page, www.wevillage.com, it’s “…flexible child care when you need it.” Children between the ages of six weeks and 12 years are the target market.
Lauren Gorsky, WeVillage multi-site coordinator and director of the Northeast facility, operates pre-school classes for youngsters just learning to hold writing instruments and recognize numbers, letters and words. “Our approach,” Gorsky explained, “is non-academic, engaging the preschoolers in conversations and hands-on exercises about what’s to be learned before they get to kindergarten and integrating that with play.”
Beninati said about 30 new families join WeVillage weekly, and she expects to have 200 or so enrolled at the Northeast center by the end of September.
“We’re especially looking forward to providing after-school care where we help youngsters up to age 12 with homework.” WeVillage, a state licensed operation, is located within walking distance of several grade schools. Hours are extended to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays to accommodate parents in need of evening child care. Beninati said special movie nights are planned for those evening hours.
(Parents who mention WeVillage’s ad in the Hollywood Star News will get one free hour of introductory child care to try out the WeVillage experience. The ad is on page eight of our September edition.)