For the past 27 years of its existence, the Gorton Community Children’s Drop-In Center has provided a safe, secure, and nurturing environment for local children. This month, the Drop-In Center will host Oktoberfest, a German-themed event that will raise money to fund a much-needed new playground for the children.
Oktoberfest, held on September 27 at The Lake Forest Club, will feature a beer tasting and auction, with prizes including sporting event tickets, birthday party packages, and massage and makeover certificates. “This will not only be a fun night out, but it will also be raising money for a great cause that’s right here in our community,” says Drop-In Center Parent Board President Kate Rother.
In fact, the Parent Board, along with Drop-In Center Director Lisa Spewak, planned the fundraiser with the goal of using the proceeds to build a new playground for the center. With an extensive background in the childcare and education fields, Lisa has helped the Parent Board develop a playground that will not only look fun, but will also be educational for the children. The new playground will also include a learning garden and an infant and toddler area, so all of the Drop-In Center’s children (ages 6 weeks to 6 years) may benefit. Members of the Parent Board are anticipating raising the total amount of money needed for the project during the Oktoberfest event and will break ground for the new playground the following week, if possible. “We’ve been working behind the scenes to get everything in place so that, if we realize our goal quickly, we can begin building right away,” Kate says.
When it comes to serving parents in the community, the Drop-In Center plays a unique role, by exposing children to an educational curriculum, while still offering parents the flexibility to bring their children whenever care is needed. “The Drop-In Center is filling a need in the community,” Lisa explains. “It’s a safe place for parents to take their children when they have other commitments—such as doctor’s appointments or volunteering opportunities—and it’s also fulfilling the need for children to be in an educational setting, without having a total attachment to a preschool program.”
On a daily basis, the Drop-In Center can hold up to 49 children within its three classrooms. Because the center has expanded over the years, it is also DCFS-regulated, and each classroom is limited to a specific number of children. The center has three lead teachers, as well as several consistent substitute teachers. “All of the teachers are very well-educated, and they’re nurturing as well,” Lisa says. Parents can make reservations for times that they need care for their children, ranging from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays.
Though the Drop-In Center has always been an important part of the community, its growth in recent years has made it an even more significant resource. “It’s been an awesome experience working with Lisa,” Kate says. “In the year that she’s been here, she’s refreshed the entire Drop-In Center with a whole new look and feel. And the feedback has been phenomenal.” As the new playground construction commences, the Drop-In Center staff members—as well as local parents and children—have many more phenomenal experiences in store.
Oktoberfest will take place at The Lake Forest Club, located at 554 N. Westmoreland Road in Lake Forest, on Friday, September 27 at 7 p.m. To buy Oktoberfest tickets or to make a donation to the Gorton Community Children’s Drop-In Center, visit gortoncenter.org/oktoberfest. To learn more about the Drop-In Center, visit gortoncenter.org/drop-in.
-Jenna Scubert // Photography by Jim Prisching