“We’re not in it to make money. We’re in it to help the families.”
15th Avenue North Learning Center is a like a big family unit—teachers, staff, children, parents. They’re all there for each other. For the milestones, the hardships, the everyday joys.

And at the heart of it all is Penny, the matriarch. She’s the center’s owner and executive director. And she works every day to ensure sure the families she serves feel safe and secure and cared for.

One way they’re able help with that security is by offering affordable, high-quality child care.

“We’re not in it to make money,” she says. “We’re in it to help the families. Child care can be very, very expensive, so we’ve kept our costs down. And we love the fact that we’re able to offer help to families that have a lower income. I’m a firm believer that if you’re doing what’s right for the families, that money’s going to come. We help them get assistance, help them with vouchers, give them discounts … anything to help them because the goal is to have the child someplace safe. “You don’t want parents having to leave their kids in the cars or at home by themselves.”

Penny says one of the biggest challenges families face is finding child care, especially child care that’s affordable. That’s why 15th Avenue charges fees based on a sliding scale—so that everyone can afford to send their children to a high-quality learning environment, regardless of their resources.

Their facility is housed in Bethlehem Centers, a United Way partner agency. They’re a part of The Family Collective, a United Way program that works to end family homelessness in Greater Nashville.

“We’re able to help families that are in need of housing or close to being homeless,” she says. “Our goal is to help the whole family, not just the child, but be there for the whole family—offer education, parenting skills, nutrition skills, those kinds of things for the families.”

She recalls one mother who was experiencing violence at home. She came to Penny for help, and Penny was able to enroll them in The Family Collective, secure temporary housing and make sure they felt safe and cared for.

“She’s moving into an apartment this week,” Penny beams.

Penny knows the challenges that too many parents face—finding the funds for child care, securing stable housing, ensuring your children are safe and have nutritious food to eat.

“The reason I do what I do is because I’ve been in their shoes,” she says. “I’ve been there. I’ve had to live some of that.”

She even has an app on her phone so that families can contact her whenever they need help.

“They can call me any time and I’m there for them because that’s what it’s about. Some people don’t have connections. Some people don’t have family here. And if they don’t have family, they don’t know who to turn to. That’s our job. We’re like a little family of our own, you know, all the staff that we have. And we do the best we can for all of our families.”

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