Cottage Children's Center in Marlborough celebrates 30th anniversary

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By Joyce DeWallace Contributing Writer
Assistant Director Maurya Hunt (left) and Program Director Patricia Pizzi stand in front of a mural painted by Assabet Valley Technical High School students. PHOTO/JOYCEDEWALLACE

Marlborough – Founded in 1981 by Marlborough parents who wanted excellence in child care for their offspring, the Cottage Children's Center has achieved that goal for the past 30 years.

Executive Director Marley Couchon explained that the Cottage is run by a volunteer board made up of dedicated parents and community leaders, and has maintained its nonprofit status.

“The center was created with quality day care in mind and has stayed committed to that purpose,” Couchon said.

It is fully licensed by the Massachusetts Office for Early Education, and since 2001, has been accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children, the nation's largest professional organization for early childhood educators.

Over the years, the Cottage has moved several times and finally built its current home next to the Marlborough Hospital on Union Street in the mid-1990s. The facility includes two infant rooms, seven classrooms, a gymnasium and two outdoor playgrounds. The colorful murals on the gymnasium walls were painted by students from the nearby Assabet Valley Regional Technical High School. The center provides care for 110 children ranging in age from 6 weeks to 7 years old with toddler classes, preschool and kindergarten. Families come from Marlborough and the neighboring communities, as well as the more distant towns of Holden and Uxbridge.

Assistant Director Maurya Hunt of Shrewsbury loves her work and has been at the center for almost 15 years.

“We make a difference in children's lives by what we offer them,” Hunt said. “We give them support and work hand-in-hand with the parents.”

The Cottage operates yearround with a staff of 28 teachers and 10 aides.

“We'se a family – staff and parents together,” Hunt said.

The high quality workforce provides an excellent interaction with the children, and the parents provide support and input for the school.

“We'se here for the children,” Couchon said. “Children thrive when their teachers are deeply interested and committed to each of them.”

“Our staff is the core of our success,” Hunt added.

The program emphasizes arts and crafts and celebrates diversity with a full calendar of special days, such as the lantern festival for the Chinese New Year, Hinamatsuri, a Japanese doll festival in March, and Kamehaneha Day in June, which honors Kamehameha the Great, the monarch who first established the unified Kingdom of Hawaii.

Program Coordinator Patricia Pizzi has been at the center for three years.

“This kind of program enriches the whole wellness of the children's growth and education,” Pizzi said. ” It's very family-based, because the families are the force behind the Cottage. What you see here is real. Our teachers are invested in their work and take the job very seriously.”

The Cottage Children's Center also reaches out to the public in many ways.

“We'se not stagnant – we try to come up with new activities and ways to be involved with our community,” Couchon said.

The Cottage holds family fun nights three or four times a year. At the Marlborough Hospital Safe Summer Fun Day, it also provides a booth for free face painting. On behalf of the cancer fund-raiser Relay for Life, the Cottage team raised over $2,000. The staff also creates award-winning floats that depict a children's theme for the annual Marlborough Labor Day parade. And at Christmas, the center becomes “Holiday Helper” by sponsoring needy children selected by the city and providing each child with six gifts. One year, one of the grandfathers put together a huge dollhouse and donated it to one of the sponsored children.

Over its 30 years of promoting the best childcare practices and serving as a model for early childhood education, the Cottage Children's Center has lived up to its philosophy – “We measure success one child at a time.”