Careabout U Cafe

Published 4:15 pm Saturday, April 24, 2010

Brookside Education Center has a new parent education center called Careabout U Cafe. The room is for parents to gather, find resources and learn new things.

“Our main focus is to get young families together to start networking and have access to resources and parent educators,” Brenda Wichmann said.

Wichmann, along with Mary Jo Volkman, is a parent educator at Brookside. While the community has had a parent education program since 1983, it’s never had a room for parents to network and hang out in.

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“We turned it into a cafe for parents to stop in for resources and networking,” Wichmann said.

The room has coffee and cocoa, couches, bookshelves of parenting books and DVDs and WiFi. It’s meant to be a place where parents of children age 0 to 5 can meet and talk about parenting.

“The set up of the room has really lent itself well to our discussion group format,” Volkman said.

The room before the remodel was a regular classroom with couches but was transformed over the summer. It now has tables and chairs, a SMART board, new flooring and the whole room was expanded.

“It is a much better learning space than it was before,” Community Education Director Chris Chalmers said. “Not only does it have the technology, it is a bigger space and more welcoming.”

The room will be a place parents can gather but is also the meeting place of seven weekly parent education groups. The room will also be used for special events each Thursday with topics ranging from gardening to scrapbooking.

“They will be informal, fun things for parents to come in and interact with other parents,” Wichmann said.

The events on Thursday are for parents. If a parent needs childcare they can call ahead and there will be staff there to watch the kids in the playroom.

Connected to the cafe is a playroom for the kids to hang out and play in while their parents are attending family education classes. One mom, Daci Kermes, brings her 2-year-old, Cooper, when she attends classes.

“He gets the most out of it,” Kermes said. “It’s helpful to bounce ideas off each other.”

Kermes plans to keep attending family education classes. She likes being able to pick up new ideas, and Cooper can make new friends while she’s talking with other parents. There will be open hours from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

“The cafe is available in the afternoons,” Wichmann said. “We want it to be a spot where parents can stop in and have a cup of coffee and visit with other parents.”

The room will serve as a place parents and the community can use to learn and network, and it will continue to be updated to provide a comfortable place for parents.

“The room is still a work in progress and will continue to evolve with our programming,” Chalmers said. “The staff should be proud of what they have created for our public.”