"Hope went through everything with me, helping me figure out funding, budgeting, the remodeling process, getting licensed, all of it."
To chat with Susan Coutermarsh on the phone is to get just a glimpse of her active, high-energy days. Children laugh excitedly in the background and she rushes to the phone, catching her breath as she answers. The founder and director of Suzy’s Little Peanuts Preschool in Springfield, Coutermarsh is not one to slow down.
Since 1999, when she opened her first home daycare, she quickly realized that to make the business stand on its own, she’d need to expand into a licensed center with increased capacity. She met with the Loan Fund’s Director of Child Care Programs Hope Campbell. “Hope went through everything with me, helping me figure out funding, budgeting, the remodeling process, getting licensed, all of it,” Coutermarsh recalls.
That first VCLF loan bolstered Suzy’s Little Peanuts in many ways. “I’ve always been committed to serving our community,” she says. Early on, the center enrolled in the state's STARS quality recognition program. “Hope helped me out with that, too,” she recalls, “and we got up to a four-STAR rating! “As soon as we expanded, we had a big waiting list of families wanting to bring their kids here,” she adds.
Fortunately, Coutermarsh is not the kind to back off a challenge, especially where the needs of kids and community are concerned. After twelve years in her original space, after much planning, she was ready to take it to the next level. She called VCLF, and spoke again with Hope.
“We weren’t in the best location in order to serve the full Springfield area community. We wanted more access and we wanted to do more collaborative partnerships with other school districts’ publicly-funded programs,” Coutermarsh says.
In 2011, a second loan from VCLF was made to purchase a building in a more accessible location, with additional space to serve more kids and more families. The new center is licensed to serve up to 45 kids. They have a garden where fresh foods are grown and picked and then brought to the kitchen where all meals are cooked. “We have an infant room, a separate toddler room, two preschool rooms and 12 staff,” Coutermarsh says proudly. “And now we have five stars.”
And it doesn’t end there, because Coutermarsh is already thinking ahead to how she can do more, do better, serve more families. The list goes on, and the children beckon, and Coutermarsh is off and running, again.