Wiggles and Giggles has an ample, newly furnished space in downtown Ontario. (Liliana Frankel/The Enterprise)

ONTARIO – A local child care enterprise will use a $100,000 grant to provide a new around-the-clock service that will particularly help parents who work night shifts.

Until now, there hasn’t been a good childcare option where working families can safely leave their kids if they work unconventional hours.

Ontario is home to a variety of industries that require graveyard shifts. Workers at Saint Alphonsus Medical Center Ontario or Snake River Correctional Institution are sometimes there overnight, as are workers at food processing plants like Kraft Heinz.

Wiggles and Giggles hopes to change that when their round-the-clock care center opens.

The center in December was awarded a grant from the Eastern Oregon Border Economic Development Board.

“There are people who want to work, but they have roadblocks that are hindering them from getting there,” including adequate child care, according to Tiffany Cruickshank, chair of the development board.

The team at Wiggles and Giggles is made up of Jaecie Lopez and Leah Walker, friends of more than 20 years. Though neither Lopez nor Walker had worked in the field of education previously, each has three children of her own.

Lopez recently got her teaching certificate, and Walker is in the process of doing the same. Their vision for the center, Lopez said, is to offer not just baseline care, but meaningful enrichment to families looking to prepare their children for school.

“It won’t just be where they're sitting on the couch watching TV all day. We’re going to be doing a lot of things where they will be assessed on a daily basis,” said Lopez. “We have a really good idea of what we want to do.”

As such, Wiggles and Giggles will have a set curriculum and aged-based classrooms for kids from infants to teenagers. Among the course materials offered will be beginner’s cooking, beginner’s Spanish, and music and arts.

For the time being, Wiggles and Giggles has been operating as a family care provider out of Lopez’s house while the team awaits an inspection of their building by the Oregon Department of Human Services. An agency representative declined to indicate when the inspection was likely to take place.

So far there are six children under Lopez and Walker’s care. With the money from the development board, they plan to add two more bathrooms to their installation in downtown Ontario, increasing the number of children they are allowed to care from 30 to 60.

Wiggles and Giggles plans to open with a ratio of two certified teachers and one aide per 10 children. Its hours will expand with client need, with the goal of eventually offering round-the-clock care.

“To my knowledge, we don’t have any other 24/7 childcare in this region,” said Cruickshank, expressing her excitement about the Wiggles and Giggles project. 

Another important goal of Wiggles and Giggles is to make their services affordable.

“We understand where the community sits as far as poverty, especially right now, and it being so destitute,” said Lopez. But, she said, “in order to operate the center we will need to charge rates that will be sustainable with all the state requirements.”

To keep things affordable for low-income families, Wiggles and Giggles is registered with the to provide subsidies on a sliding scale based on a family’s income. The full monthly price for an infant to attend Wiggles and Giggles is estimated at $650 when the center opens.

News tip? Contact reporter Liliana Frankel at liliana@malheurenterprise.com or 267-981-5577.

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