NEW GARDEN – Local heroes walk among us.
And the angels of the earth too.
Kennett resident Maricela Ayllon is both.
In her role as Director of Family Services at the Tick Tock Early Learning Center, Ayllon helps hardworking families who struggle every day in their quest not only to provide for their children, but also to overcome the financial limitations associated with poverty. .
Of the 78 students currently enrolled in Tick Tock, Ayllon has selected eight families for Operation Vacation.
Now in its 31st year, Operation Holiday has brought a brighter holiday season to thousands of families with children across the Greater Philadelphia area since its inception. Reader donations in 2019 totaled over $ 35,000 and enabled the program to provide food and gifts to 107 families including 325 children in need.
Tick ââTock, which opened in 1964, provides affordable, reliable and quality child care and early childhood education to working families.
The federal government subsidizes tuition fees of $ 1,200 per month for families who cannot afford the full monthly tuition fees. This allows the eight families selected for Operation Vacation to enroll their children in school and daycare, which is open from 12-month-old babies to kindergarten through sixth grade schoolchildren.
There are 16 teachers on staff who help children develop social skills, prepare for school and progress through key developmental stages.
Ayllon said Tick Tock suspended registrations in September.
âWe have the space, we don’t have enough teachers,â Ayllon said.
âWe are proud and we are very proud of our ratio (student-teachers),â she added.
Ayllon said two of the nonprofit organization’s biggest supporters are South Chester County United Way and Longwood Rotary.
Ayllon said teachers at Tick Tock have a wishlist of items they need for their classrooms, including sensory tables that have sections that allow for multiple uses, including sand games. and water to develop motor skills and a small wooden table for the kitchen.
All children receive free meals while spending their care and educational day programs at Tick Tock, Ayllon said.
Ayllon submitted to Operation Holiday a list of parent-child gift cards and youth-Christmas wish lists.
Three decades ago, Ayllon first arrived in the United States in 1991 to join her husband, Roberto, who was already working in the United States in the community of Kennett Square. The couple share three children together, Edson, Brian and Princess Kassandra. All three children attended Kennett High School, with Kassandra having recently graduated from the Southern District of Chester County in 2019.
Tragically, Brian passed away six years ago.
âYou don’t know what life is going to bring,â Ayllon said.
Of Edson and Cassandra, she said, âThey are good kids. They do their best to make a difference in the community.
Indeed, like their mother. Every day, as the Director of Family Services at Tick Tock, Ayllon offers to help those she meets, those who need questions answered, including a path forward to getting enough food to help you. feed their children. Even when not working on the clock, Ayllon takes calls from parents who sometimes ask for help in the evenings or on weekends.
Ayllon always answers their calls.
Prior to joining the Tick Tock team in 2007 as a teacher, Ayllon worked at Penn London Elementary School, which is part of the Avon Grove Regional School District.
Ten years ago she was promoted to her current position of Director of Family Services in which Ayllon works directly with parents. She helps families register and provides support by sharing available resources as needed. Ayllon also supports families in their insurance requests.
âWhatever support they need, they just need to call me and we can do it,â Ayllon said.
During the 2020 shutdown, Tick Tock was forced to shut down via a statewide warrant on March 13 of last year and remained closed for three months.
âWhen we reopened, almost all the students came back,â Ayllon recalls, âexcept for a fewâ.
There were challenges during the reopening, including the need to increase the technological capabilities of the facility to accommodate distance learners.
Tick ââTock implements a curriculum for students enrolled in the academic program.
âThe learning is very intense,â said Ayllon. In addition to educational subjects, the young people of Tick Tock also learn social and emotional skills.
Many parents who send their children to Tick Tock work multiple jobs to survive, all living paycheck to paycheck. Due to their income, the tuition fees to attend the learning center are partially subsidized by the federal government.
And with inflation steadily rising across America over the past six months, the average family is spending up to $ 200 more on groceries on food and other essentials.
âThey are facing so many struggles right now,â Ayllon said of the eight families selected for Operation Tick Tock. “And they will continue to face difficulties as prices continue to rise.”
Yet while these parents are at work, she added, they know their children are receiving good care.
âThe kids are happy,â Ayllon said, adding that sometimes the little ones cry because they miss their moms.
Tick ââTock offers phone and Zoom meetings sharing feedback with parents on their children’s progress. Recently, face-to-face meetings have also resumed.
âThey go to work confident that their children are in good hands – and also that they are learning,â Ayllon said.
Ayllon said many parents whose children are enrolled in Tick Tock are working harder than ever these days.
âA lot of companies don’t have enough employees, so people are working overtime,â she said. âThey are more tired.
The eight families selected for Operation Vacation work in various fields. A mother is a tailor. Another mother is a nurse. Some are single mothers. Two moms work for DoorDash after losing their jobs due to the pandemic ending. DoorDash does not provide stable income, Ayllon noted. The other families work in the mushroom industry.
Donations to support the charitable work of the Tick Tock Learning Center are always welcome.
âEvery dollar that goes into Tick Tock goes towards wages and children,â she said. Tick ââTock, a nonprofit with a board of directors, is owned by the community, Ayllon said.
âWorking for a non-profit organization is unique,â ââshe added.
Over the past 20 months, Ayllon said there have been “so many challenges”.
The biggest challenge has been working so hard to keep all the children safe, she said. There were no deaths from COVID during the Tick Tock pandemic last year.
And although Tick Tock provides child care and education for young people whose families are struggling financially, they are always treated equally.
âFor us everyone is the same,â Ayllon said. ” We are all equal. We don’t judge. We don’t criticize.
For a child to be enrolled in Tick Tock, their guardian must either work or be in school.
Ayllon urged people who face barriers to ‘don’t give up’.
âWe’re very compassionate here,â Ayllon said of the Tick Tock Learning Center.
Ayllon said she is inspired by diversity, caring and a feeling of being there for families.
Regarding the families benefiting from Operation Vacation, she said they are hard working people.
âWhat I want people to understand is that our program is there to help families, but we wouldn’t be able to do it without the support of the community,â Ayllon said.
âThese children are our future,â Ayllon said.