PENNSYLVANIA'S #1 WEEKLY NEWSPAPER • locally owned since 1854

Hassan’s new child care center has roots in necessity, tragedy

By Dan Miller

danmiller@pressandjournal.com

717-944-4628
Posted 11/14/18

Jennifer Hassan says she started a new child care center out of necessity, because she couldn’t find a before- and after-school day care program for her three children.

Patchwork Kids also …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Hassan’s new child care center has roots in necessity, tragedy

Posted

Jennifer Hassan says she started a new child care center out of necessity, because she couldn’t find a before- and after-school day care program for her three children.

Patchwork Kids also was born out of tragedy. Hassan and her husband, Hany Mohamed, were at the beach in Wildwood, New Jersey, on Sept. 3, 2017, when Mohamed drowned in the ocean while saving one of the couple’s three children, Quamari.

Hany’s sudden death led to many life changes for Jennifer, and was the inspiration to start her business, which is the fulfillment of a lifelong dream.

“From the time I was little I walked around telling people I wanted to be a babysitter,” Hassan said.

A need for care

Hassan has capacity for up to 24 children at the child care center in the small strip mall on Brown Street. She has six children enrolled full-time and another four enrolled part-time. Seven school-age children attend her before and/or after school program. She is still enrolling children of all ages.

Hassan wanted to open before the start of the school year. Instead, she opened the first week of September, but by then many parents had arrangements in place for the school year.

Still, Hassan said the need exists for more child care. She points to a Middletown Area School District parent who recently brought concerns to the school board about a lack of available options in the district.

The big windows at Patchwork Kids allow a lot of natural light to stream in. The glass doors and large windows have become a palette for colorful artwork done by the children. The artwork draws attention and advertises the center to people going by.

The previous tenants were a physical therapy business, and United Cerebral Palsy, so the space was already set up with much of what she needed. The large room UCP used for its high-risk clients has just one electric outlet high off the floor, providing a safe indoor play area for children younger than 3.

The landlord makes a washer and dryer available to Hassan, so parents bringing their children don’t have to bring their own bedding.

“I had two kids in day care. I know what it’s like to walk in with three sleeping bags and your diaper bags,” Hassan said. “You are feeling like Santa Claus trying to get three kids in the door at 7 o’clock on a Monday morning. Nobody wants to do that. It’s torture. So as much as we can minimize that we are trying to do that.”

Patchwork Kids opens at 6 a.m. In doing marketing research before opening her center, Hassan learned that many parents want a center with an earlier drop-off time, because the parents commute a distance to get to work.

Untimely death

Jennifer likes to say that Hany made Patchwork Kids possible. After he died, Jennifer received money from a life insurance policy through his employer, UPMC Pinnacle, that she didn’t know existed. That enabled her to pay cash for a $25,000 minivan for her family.

When she decided to start the day care, she funded it by taking a loan out on the van.

“He was always pushing me to open my own day care,” Jennifer said. “It was on my to-do list, but it kept getting pushed off. With the situation like it was, it was finally time to bite it and see if I could get it off the ground. Here we are.”

She was director of a day care for the YMCA in Harrisburg when tragedy struck last September.

Jennifer and Hany had been married since Feb. 5, 2013, when they tied the knot four days after Jennifer flew to Hany’s native Egypt to meet him for the first time. They had met over the Internet and developed a relationship.

Their two sons, Quamari and Anyis, were adopted from foster care. The couple’s third child, Makenzie, was Jennifer’s biological daughter from a previous marriage.

Jennifer and Hany didn’t need child care because they had opposite work schedules. Someone was always home with the kids.

They were both in school. Hassan was pursuing a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education. She had earned an associate’s degree in the field in 2009.

Hany was working full-time for UPMC Pinnacle and pursuing his nursing degree.

“We had this plan,” Hassan said. “Buying the big Cape Cod. I always wanted one with a walk-out basement where I could put an in-home day care with like 12 kids and have my own kids.”

That all changed with Hany’s death. Hassan had to find a before- and after-school program, and pay for it with an income half what it once was.

She obtained funding for child care assistance, but she couldn’t find the child care. She got through the last school year with help from family, but needed a long-term solution.

“I started looking at other options. I can stay where I am and have the same fight this school year, or go gung-ho” toward opening her own center in Middletown, close to schools where her children attend.

Plenty of activities

Hassan said she likes that her location is in the middle of Middletown, surrounded by activities that children enjoy.

They can walk to parks, the police station and a firehouse, a railroad, restaurants and other small businesses, grocery stores, a senior citizen complex, and more.

Hassan can take her kids on a field trip to the Let’s Pretend imaginary play house, without leaving the parking lot.

Hassan recently took her children out to watch the water moving in Swatara Creek. The kids were mesmerized by the planes flying in and out of Harrisburg International Airport.

They like going to the Amtrak train station. They know that the bell means the train is about to move.

The Middletown and Hummelstown Railroad tracks pass right in front of her building on Brown Street. The kids are “glued to the window” when a train passes by, Hassan said. “We have our own built-in entertainment without going anywhere.”

She plans to use the Sharing Pantry at the entrance to the police station as a service project. The kids can bring in cans of food once a month and put them in the wooden cabinet that houses the pantry.

She sees the potential for intergenerational activities with the elderly folks who live a block away at the Interfaith Senior Housing apartment complex.

“They sit outside when they know we are coming,” Hassan said of the residents.

To learn more or to contact Patchwork Kids, go to www.facebook.com/pkmiddletown; call 717-546-2656; or email patchworkkids@yahoo.com.