JRC's Preschool Program - Tiffany

Funding from United Way helps to provide wide range of educational programs for children of all ages. (Canton Repository. Sunday, October 9, 2016)

Tiffany Horn had to figure out about four years ago how she was going to juggle caring for two small children with classes at Stark State College and two jobs. She turned to the facility that cared for her when she was a child: The JRC Learning Center.

Before 2013, it was known as J.R. Coleman. Today, the center at 2213 14th St. NE serves about 120 to 130 children, including Horn's sons Isaiah, 9, and Malachi, 5. Both boys are enrolled in the after-school program, and Malachi before going to Heritage Christian for kindergarten was in the preschool program.

"As parents, we have to work, and if you want to go have your kids go to a day care that feels like a home away from home, you need to choose JRC," said Horn, 36, of Canton. "Knowing my kids are at a JRC, I know they'll be safe. I know they'll be loved, and it's their home away from home."

Horn described the JRC preschool program's intricate curriculum. JRC has a cooking center and cleaning center that teaches the children life skills, including how to better interact with other children, eat more nutritiously, prepare for kindergarten, write their names, know the alphabet and count at least to 10. In addition, they have a summer activity program that she said introduced her son to swimming, golf and fishing, along with field trips to museums in Cleveland and the Akron Zoo.

Tom Thompson, executive director of JRC, said his organization, which has about 60 employees, operates the learning center for children as well as an adult center for seniors near Meyers Lake and an independent senior-living facility. He said United Way provides $207,000 to four of JRC's programs. JRC's annual budget is $2.7 million. United Way also provides volunteers that do projects with children and seniors for its annual Day of Caring.

"We have regular teachers in classrooms at all levels and kids at all levels are learning. They're not just waiting for school to learn," he said. "Early education is the key to success in school and beyond."

Thompson said J.R. Coleman, a parish priest, founded the nonprofit in 1974, when it was known as the St. Paul's Social Action Committee and operated a senior center. He later opened a preschool and after-school program on 14th Street NE and Mahoning Avenue. The building was demolished and replaced with a new building on the same site in 2000 after JRC raised $3.2 million for its capital campaign.

Because other organizations in the area were also named after Coleman, the group rebranded in 2013 as JRC. Besides the 120 to 130 children it serves, it also provides services to about 30 to 40 seniors each day.

Thompson said JRC offers an early Head Start program for about 32 children and a free preschool program. He said JRC charges according to a sliding scale, depending on family income and age of the children.

Horn said with the help of financial assistance through the Stark County Department of Job and Family Services she was able to pay an affordable co-pay fee for JRC's services. Isaiah's school bus drops him off at JRC after school.

Horn said she first got involved with JRC when her father worked there as a child-care worker when she was about 8 or 9 years old. She recalled help with homework, field trips and talks about the weather.

"It is my family. It's the extended part of my family," Horn said. "It was more than a child-care center. They took time to know the families. ... (They) built relationships.