CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- To say Dawn Snyder enjoys her work would be an understatement.
"Every day that I come to work, I am so grateful," said Snyder, director of the Sacred Heart Early Learning Center. "I am so fortunate to be doing what I was put on this earth to do."
The center is housed inside the Sacred Heart Pavilion on the corner of Quarrier Street and Leon Sullivan Way. The building also includes a full-size gymnasium.
While the center opened Oct. 29, Snyder was on board before that. The building was still under construction when she was chosen for the position of director and given a role in completing the center. She ordered kitchen equipment, selected furniture and toys and even designed the outdoor playground.
"It was like a director's dream come true," she said.
The center is licensed by the state to provide care for 52 children age 6 weeks to 3 years. There are now 16 enrolled with a list of more to begin in January. Snyder believes building enrollment will not be a problem at the state-of-the-art facility.
"I have 12 care teachers," she said. "They are not just sitters. We are an early learning center."
Each staff member is required to have specialized West Virginia infant and toddler certification. Each must also complete the U.S. Department of Labor's apprenticeship program as a child development specialist.
"Some have bachelor's and associate degrees," she said. "My staff of 12 has over 140 years of experience."
Snyder, a native of St. Albans, has a long history of working with children.
She was living in Tennessee when her son was a toddler and she wanted to work outside the home. Working in a childcare center seemed the perfect solution. Within a year, she had worked her way into the position of assistant director.
In 1989, she moved back to West Virginia with her family when her second child was soon to be born. In 1991, her husband died in a car accident and she was left to raise a 7-year-old son and a 19-month-old daughter alone.