One of Tigard’s best-kept secrets is Gentog, a daycare program for both prekindergartners and senior citizens in the Willowbrook Center. While each group has its own areas in the homey space that looks more like grandma’s living room than a daycare facility, they are given opportunities to mingle during the day.
Gentog was the dream of two women – Marcie Jones and Murt Bickett, who worked together for 30 years at a creditreporting business and talked about someday opening their own intergenerational daycare center.
“We dreamt big,” Jones said of leasing several adjoining suites in the Willowbrook Center in 2007 so they would have all the space they would ever need.
When Jones and Bickett left the corporate world to go into business together, they learned that inter-generational daycare centers were almost non-existent, but they attended two conferences at a successful one in Milwaukee, Wisc., and were impressed with what it offered.
“When we opened in 2008, we hired two childcare workers and two adult care workers, and two of them are still working here,” Jones said.
Bickett retired in June 2017, and Jones is now running the center on her own; the center has 22 employees, including those who work part-time and are on-call
Two male clients have been coming for more than five years, and one client, Elaine, who lives with her adult children who work during the day, has been coming to Gentog for seven years. Elaine plays board games (favorites are Dominoes, Triominoes and Running Cube) every day with several likeminded friends who also attend Gentog, and she held up a prize she had won for winning a game earlier in the day.
“They’re pretty good at it,” Jones said, adding, “I’m proud of what we’re doing here. I believe we are doing God’s work. So many people don’t know this program exists. They only know about foster care.
“Some of our seniors like to be around people while others are shy initially. We do brain-game trivia after lunch and seated exercises. Usually the whole crew participates in both. We have six professional musicians who come in every month, and one employee plays the guitar so we have live music every day, and we do Memories in the Making art classes.”
Jones said a goal at Gentog is to balance exercise and life skills, and “it’s always fun when a volunteer brings in new skills,” she said. “I would love to have someone come in with woodworking skills and tools to teach a simple project or build model airplanes. We would love to have someone come in and teach knitting or quilting or arts and crafts. I’m always on the lookout for volunteers.”
A Christian curriculum is followed on the pre-kindergarten side, and the kids eat familystyle, serving themselves. There are large spaces for each age group, and Jones joked that “the babies pretty much run the show.”
Currently both baby teachers are bilingual in English and Spanish so the kids get language lessons along with diaper changes.
Each day there are inter-generational experiences or staff members will lead a class in movement, for example, or sign language or circle yoga for all ages.
Jones has personally taken advantage of operating an inter-generational daycare over the years with her grandmother who had dementia and her two grandsons participating in the program, and her dad now comes to work with her.
As president of Gentog, Jones said she “wears all the hats,” and added, “I have loved every minute of it because I believe I am doing God’s work. This is exactly what I dreamed about and the way it is supposed to be, and I have learned a lot. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
Gentog is located at 11535 SW Durham Road, Suite C5; for more information, visit gentog.com or call 503-639-2600.