Cortland County residents have spoken for a long time about the need for more childcare options. Two local residents took upon themselves to provide the services that meet that need.
Marathon residents Alex and Megan Decker last August purchased the property where the long-standing Three Bear Inn stands, and decided to switch the business model.
The motel will continue as a separate business owned by the Deckers, but many in Marathon are excited about their brand-new business that will be housed in the former restaurant and bar on the property. The Deckers renovated the building that the restaurant and bar were housed in, and turned it into Doodle Bears Daycare.
The daycare, which Megan said took seven months to renovate, was all about having a fresh start for the building.
“We’re a safe and welcoming environment. We really want to feed into early education, because it’s the foundation of their future,” Megan said.
The new daycare in Marathon, located at 3 Broome St., has three programs: six weeks to 18 months, 18 months to 3 years and 3-to-5 years.
Megan noted the six week-18 month old and 18-month to 3-year old programs are currently full, but added that there is a waiting list. The 3-to-5 year old program still has spots available for those who don’t have children enrolled in kindergarten.
Megan, who’s been in the daycare industry for 17 years, previously ran a licensed, in-home childcare center for eight years. She went to school for early childhood education, something that’s always been a passion for her.
“The need was really there. I was constantly being asked for childcare, but once they came to me they didn’t leave until they went to school,” Megan said. “I love children and we just want to help the community. We want to help those families versus pushing them all away.”
Megan’s goal is to have the daycare as Montessori-style school, which is more hands-on and allows children to be able to play through learning.
“We want to make sure each child is approached individually, leading up to their strengths, working on them and becoming who they are,” Megan said.
Meet The Staff
Megan hired a handful of certified educators for the daycare. Her staff includes Kaylee Turner in the 3-to-5 year-old program, Jaime Shetts in the six weeks to 18-month old program and Breanna Hopkins in the 18-month to 3-year old program.
Turner is a native of Ohio and currently lives in Marathon. Graduating from SUNY Cortland, she reiterated the aspect of learning through play with the 3-to-5 year olds.
“It’s learning through play,” Turner said, which includes days of the week, counting and more. “A lot of the skills I’ll be focusing on is name recognition, being able to spell their name. We’re also looking at recognition of capital letters and lowercase letters. We’re focusing on social skills because that seems to be lost a bit. It’s going to be hands-on learning, no matter the activity.”
Shetts, a Marathon resident who graduated from Tompkins Cortland Community College with a degree in early child psychology, is all about learning to “get a lay of the world.”
“They’re going to learn to crawl, grasp things, teach sensories (and more),” Shetts said. “It’s
everything a baby needs to learn how to do.”
Hopkins, also from Marathon, is handling the 18 month to 3-year old program. She babysat for five years for 3-to-9 years olds, and was also a substitute teacher and teacher’s assistant.
Hopkins, who has an associate’s degree in early childhood development from Tompkins Cortland Community College, is a hands-on teacher and wants to factor in sensory learning.
“I want to show them there’s a whole wide world to explore,” Hopkins said. “I enjoy working with kids to see them grow and learn new things. It’s very rewarding to make up a goal for a child. When they finally figure things out, their smile is as big as yours. It’s great to see a child have those goals and achieve them.”
Preserving the history
According to Alex, the restaurant and bar with an inn was one of the oldest operating businesses in Cortland County. The bar was established between the 1930s and 1940s, and the motel came along in the 1970s.
“When we bought it, we wanted to make sure we kept the heritage,” Alex said. “We had to change the value of the restaurant and bar into something new, which is now the daycare.”
In order to preserve the history, Megan said, the building needed a lot of work.
“We wanted to make sure the town knew we’re making things better and preserving versus destroying it,” Megan said.
Megan was thankful for the support she received from the community.
“These people that are here supporting the community are what’s important,” Alex said.
For more information or register for the 3-to-5 year old program, go to the daycare’s website at doodlebearsdaycare.com, or call 607-345-6503.