Before Tisha Moore opened the doors to her new Christian day care center in Flintstone this April, fellow child care providers warned her not to be stressed if she only had 20 kids for the first few months.
Little Kingdom Academy, however, already has more than 80 children enrolled, and interest in its programs and services continues to grow.
"It's been pretty miraculous," said Moore, owner and director of the center. "There's no way we should have had that many children when we had just opened our doors. It's just been a huge blessing."
Little Kingdom Academy provides preschool and after-school services for children between the ages of 6 weeks and 12 years old, with many of those children coming from nearby cities like Ringgold, Fort Oglethorpe and Chickamauga, as well as the St. Elmo district in Chattanooga.
Moore believes the day care's success comes, in part, due to the reputation she gained among students and teachers while working in the Walker County School District, where she served as a paraprofessional teacher in a special education classroom for five years.
"I treat all children like my own," Moore said. "I can walk into a classroom and everybody runs to me to give me hugs because I tell them that I love them, and they know I'll do anything for them."
Moore spent months working to get the child care center up and running since purchasing the building in September 2017. Thanks to help from friends and her husband, Ricky, who works in construction, the facility's themed rooms now provide a fun environment for preschoolers to learn about everything from numbers and colors to stories from the Bible.
The 2-year-olds' room, for example, is camping themed, with picnic tables in place of traditional desks, a reading tent in the corner and a canoe on the wall. The 3-year-olds' room is adventure themed, brandishing a pirate ship, a map that covers one of the walls and messages like "Oh, the Places You'll Go!"
"The kids just eat it up," Moore said.
For those ages 4-13, Little Kingdom Academy offers plenty of activities in its after-school program — and even more during its summer day camp, which is currently ongoing. So far, the campers have done S.T.E.M. activities like making slime, taken field trips to places like the aquarium, and spent time relaxing at the swimming pool.
Open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day, the day care provides breakfast, lunch and a snack each day, and when school begins again this fall, a bus will drop off and pick up children from Cherokee Ridge Elementary, Chattanooga Valley Elementary, Stone Creek Elementary and Rossville Elementary.
Having grown up in the foster care system, Moore said she hopes the academy will become a beacon of light to lower-income families in the surrounding community.
"I know what it's like to be one of those kids that are picked on and dirty and that don't get attention at home and don't feel loved," she said. "When [these kids] go home, I want them to know that we love them and we're going to feed them; they don't have to worry about food or love when they come here."
The center is also focused on outreach, with a "blessing box" in the parking lot filled with hygienic items and canned goods available to anyone in the community, as well as a clothing closet that those in need can peruse upon request.
"My personal goal is to help as many people as they can," Moore said. "We've been able to bless the community, and in turn, I feel like we're getting blessed, too."
With room to accommodate 109 children, those interested in signing their children up for the center's services can learn more at littlekingdomacademy.com.
Email Myron Madden at email@example.com.