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Amid church's plans for homeless ministry, daycare announces it will close

Tomorrow’s Hope daycare center will close in August 2025, parents were told in a letter. Hope United Methodist Church plans to use some of the space for its ministry to homeless people and poor families.

A plan to close an East Flat Rock daycare center and use the space to serve homeless people has parents concerned about where their children will go at a time when daycare slots are in short supply.

  Tomorrow’s Hope Child Development Center, a daycare center that has operated in East Flat Rock for 25 years, plans to close in August 2025. A letter sent in March to parents of children in the daycare disclosed plans by Hope United Methodist Church to use the daycare space to offer a garden for needy families and “pod homes” for homeless families. The church, on Spartanburg Highway at West Blue Ridge Road next door to the daycare, leases the building to Tomorrow’s Hope.

“I’ve had lot of angry people whose children attend and are concerned about what they’re going to do for child care,” said Rebecca McCall, the chair of the Board of Commissioners. According to information she received, the church wants to build “platforms for tents” for homeless families. Asked whether the current zoning would permit that, she said, “From what I understand, no.”

She referred a reporter to Christopher Todd, Henderson County’s business and development director. Todd said last week that county officials have spoken briefly with people from the church but that the county has received no application or plans. Any facility the church might eventually propose at the site would have to meet zoning and building codes, he said.

Hope United focusing on poor and homeless

  The daycare is scheduled to close Aug. 28, 2025, according to the letter signed by Gale Hoots, the chair of the board that oversees the daycare, and Terry Maybin, the daycare’s director.

  “Over the past two to three years our relationship with the church has changed from ministry partners to one of landlord and tenant,” the letter said. “Hope United is becoming a missions driven church focusing on the needs of the poor and homeless in the EFR area. These ministries often spill over into the physical space of Tomorrow’s Hope. Examples include homeless folks hanging out or sleeping around the church in the daycare area. This has resulted in calls to the sheriff’s department and asking people to move on.”

  Hope United Methodist has for years offered a free meal on Tuesday evenings to anyone in the community who wants fellowship along with nourishment.

  In the future, the church plans to offer more services to meet the needs of the homeless community, according to the letter from Hoots and Maybin.

  “There will be a garden outdoors for needy families to harvest food for their families,” they said. “In the near future pod homes for homeless families will be placed in the field across from the playground. With security issues we do not think the parents would appreciate this for their children’s safety.”

Aimee Yeager, director of communications for the Western North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church, submitted a statement about Hope church's plans.
"It is important to note in the article that the church has no official plans to offer housing or housing services on its property," she said. "The letter referenced here came from the childcare center, and the church was not included in writing or sending it. Therefore, it is inaccurate to use that letter as a source for official church plans, which again do not include any plans for housing individuals or families."

The Rev. Danielle Hammett, Hope's minister, also made a statement in reaction to the newsstory.

"While Hope UMC leases space to Tomorrow's Hope Child Development Center, the daycare center operates independently of the church and its ministries," she said. "The decision to close the daycare was made by the board and leadership of the daycare center. Church leadership was made aware of their decision, and the church is in the process of deciding what our next steps will be. While we are sad to see the daycare center close, we remain faithful to our calling to minister to the East Flat Rock community and look forward to all God has in store for us in the future."
"At Hope UMC, we offer Jesus, love, grace, and mercy to everyone in our community," she added. "We are blessed people who have been given the opportunity to serve God by being Jesus' hands and feet. This church works in and with the community, and it has always supported us. We are not a church community, but a community church."

In a telephone interview, Hoots said the board decided to keep the daycare open until August 2025 to allow time for two classes of the center’s oldest children to advance into kindergarten.

  Hoots also emphasized that the daycare board, not the church, decided to close the center.

  “The church has nothing to do with this,” she said. “It’s just not something we want to continue.”

Financial and staffing concerns, she said, were among the reasons for the board’s decision to close the center. She said she hoped the closing date 16 months away would give parents and staff time find other options.

 The decision to close the daycare has parents scrambling to find another affordable option for their children, according to a mom with two children at the daycare.

  “As most know, any reputable daycare typically has a long waitlist,” said the woman, who asked to remain anonymous because she did not want repercussions from the center's board. “I am unsure where we go from here or how we can reach out for support and help but would greatly appreciate any suggestions.”

Kid City could offer 150 slots

While Tomorrow’s Hope has announced its closing, a new option appears to be on the horizon.

The Hendersonville City Council on Thursday night authorized a rezoning  request allowing Kid City USA to open a child-care center in a 11,441-square-foot one-story building on Ninth Avenue West that last housed a retirement home.

Kid City provides preschool and daycare for children in more than 100 locations across several states including North Carolina.

David Lee, who would be the center’s landlord, said the veteran Kid City franchisee will operate a top-notch facility.

“She’s got seven or eight schools that she’s operating,” he said. “This will be her largest and her most prominent. The plan is it’ll be a 200-kid license and their expectations are to maintain their five-star rating and meet all the government targets she’ll probably keep it at around 140, 150.”

The former Blue Ridge Retirement Home across Ninth Avenue from Hendersonville Middle School has 21 rooms, 13 bathrooms, a cafeteria, a kitchen, a rec room and a playground. Kid City plans to add a second playground.


Open 6:30 a.m.-6:30 p.m.

At a neighborhood compatibility meeting on Aug. 30, Lee said his own grown children who are working parents had trouble finding a daycare that was open all day. The Kid City daycare and preschool will be open 6:30 a.m.-6:30 p.m. and offer breakfast and lunch. Up to 40 percent of the slots would be subsidized for lower income families, Lee said.

Also at the neighborhood compatibility meeting, Linda Carter noted that her agency, WNC Source, operates a Head Start center nearby. She said WNC Source has the highest pay rates in town for childcare staffers and still has “difficulty finding the workforce,” according to minutes of the meeting.

Ryan Latrell, who works for Lee, said the franchisee does not seem to have a “staffing issue.” She has a 25-year career in child development, worked for the state of Florida for 15 years and runs the eight other Kid City locations, where she “doesn’t seem to struggle with placing people there,” Latrell said at the August meeting.