The Jewish Early Learning Center of Bellmore-Merrick, run by the Chabad Center for Jewish Life, will be expanding its classroom space for members of the incoming fall class to accommodate their numerous programs. The community raised almost $230,000 this year for the project.
Currently un-der construction are two new classrooms and a multipurpose room at the Hewlett Avenue center that Rabbi Shimon Kramer and his wife, Chanie, plan to have completed by next month. Another classroom will be added by next year.
In the school year recently completed, 60 preschoolers were turned away from the Early Learning Center due to a lack of space. Through a fundraising campaign called Build4Light, the center received just over $229,000 to subsidize the construction. Several businesses also contributed to the campaign, with some — including the Setton Foundation and supermarket chain Best Market — offering to quadruple donations received above the $50,000 mark.
“We’re really a community organization,” Kramer said. “Everyone is part of us. The community is part of us. We’re one of the only real community centers in the area.”
The Learning Center provides young children with “top-notch quality education,” the Kramers said, mixed with support, encouragement and a focus on social and emotional well-being. The new classrooms will have stations for many learning activities, including science lessons. Educational fountains are being installed to help children learn about the physics of water and to have fun with bubbles.
The construction also includes freshly painted walls, vinyl and wood flooring and a new restroom. Because of the center’s community service goals, suppliers were willing to lend a helping hand. All American Metal Corp. donated the restroom partitions, and Kent Tile Flooring offered the flooring at no cost.
Chabad also runs Cooking for Hope, a community service project in which teen volunteers cook for the needy and hungry in the community. A new food preparation area will increase the productivity and effectiveness of the program, the Kramers said, which was originally run in cramped spaces — including their home — where volunteers were turned away due to a lack of space.
The Chabad Center has been community-oriented in the past as well. When Hurricane Sandy hit Long Island, for example, Rabbi Kramer accepted people looking for emergency shelter and ran an emergency line for phone calls.
On top of the physical improvements, a new calendar program guide is being put together for the Jewish community that is being designed inhouse. The calendar will list events and programs of the Chabad Center, holiday dates and personal special occasions of community members. It will be mailed to thousands of homes in the community free of charge.
“These set a foundation to life,” Rabbi Kramer said of the programs the center provides. “I think of it like a growing tree that has supports on its sides. The supports help the tree grow . . . That’s what we do at the center. We see the person as a whole and help them grow.”