Owners put their faith into day care centers

GEORGETOWN — It's not the millions of dollars invested in this day care that sets it apart, its owners say.

Nor is it the 14,200 square feet of space equipped with everything from a computer room to a castle.

What sets Creation Kingdom apart is faith.

Basing their business on Christian principles, the day care's owners say that in spite of the economy, this is the right time to create five high-end day cares in the Lexington area over the next few years. Eventually, they're eyeing becoming a nationwide chain.

The first center opened late last year in the Lanes Run Business Park in Georgetown and will be followed this summer by a location in the Millpond Shopping Center in Lexington. A third is expected to open in Nicholasville's Brannon Crossing complex in the fall.

"We have very high standards, and in our hearts, we believe we are offering parents the education that they need," said Dawn Tetzlaff, who owns Creation Kingdom with her husband, John.

The Tetzlaffs moved from their home in Michigan to Central Kentucky, where they have family, to start the business over the course of a couple of years. They brought with them four other families, all of whom have a role in Creation Kingdom.

"We as Christians all stepped out on faith," said Stacey Kiebach, who serves as Creation Kingdom's marketing director and moved to Georgetown with her family.

Dawn Tetzlaff said she had worked in child care and saw the need for a structured, Christian-based program that dealt with the needs of every aspect of a growing child or what the Creation Kingdom literature refers to as the "body, mind, heart and spirit."

So far, 58 children are enrolled in Georgetown, which has capacity for 182, and enrollment is open at the centers under construction.

Georgetown's Robert Spangler said he sees the center as challenging his children, Isaiah, 3, and Alivia, 1. Both are learning sign language and have begun to use some signs correctly.

"We noticed a difference from the beginning," he said.

Although the Creation Kingdom Web site says the three flags waving in its company crest represent Christian principles and the "t" in Creation resembles a cross, Kiebach said it "walks a fine line" between encouraging certain values and preaching in its curriculum.

What sets the program apart, said Tetzlaff, is that the group created curriculum that can be purchased by franchisees and adopted in other parts of the state — and, she hopes, in other parts of the country.

The plan is to use the Kentucky centers, which will each employ between 30 and 35 people, as a proving ground for the curriculum so they can begin offering franchise licenses in 2010.

"We want to make sure that we've tested what we are doing," she said. "It all had to be a system that could translate to the next facility."

But, she said, she has no doubt there is a need for their kind of service.

"There are a lot of dual-income families that are looking for the educational aspect of child care," said Tetzlaff, adding that the group conducted a significant amount of market research to quantify the need.

While the center, with rates for infants running at $195 a week, is more expensive than some, Spangler said, the quality of the care for his children and the focus on education is worth it.

He is especially pleased with the quality of the staff. He sees enrolling his children in Creation Kingdom as an investment in their future.

"They will carry with them what they learn their entire lives," he said.