Happy House was established in 1967 as a Kindergarten to serve socio-economically disadvantaged children in the Lake City community. Two churches, the First Methodist and the First Baptist Church, provided space in which these early classes were held. In 1971, we built our own facility on city-owned property located on Lake Jeffery Road. Classes ran mornings only during the school calendar year. The establishment of the Columbia School Board's Kindergarten Center changed the emphasis of our program to include child care.
In the Fall of 1973, we enrolled twenty (20) three to five-year old children from various income levels. The hours of operation were extended also to accommodate working families' schedules. Center operational hours became 7:00 AM - 5:30 PM, five (5) days a week.
By 1981, our community's need for preschool was so great that we sought and was awarded a State grant which allowed us to double the number of children we were serving. With the addition of matching private donations, enrollment increased to 70 children. Happy House, Inc. achieved National Accreditation in 1993 and became one of the first NAEYC accredited centers in North Florida.
In 1997, after a major fund-rasing drive a third building was completed. We opened our doors and hearts to an additional 74 children and expanded the age range to include infants and toddlers. With a waiting list of almost 500 children, the decision was made to open a pre-kindergarten building for our preschool children. In August of 2003, our fourth building was opened to seventy-two (72) four and five year old children. Happy House now serves up to 250 children, six weeks to 13 years of age.
Happy House, Inc. provides a well-balanced education program based on the philosophy of teaching the “whole child”. Teaching practices promote self-esteem, good hygiene, respect for themselves and others, cognitive and motor skills as well as language development. The classroom environment is conducive to promoting developmentally appropriate activities that will capture a child’s interest and motivate curiosity.
The Happy House site is composed of four (4) buildings and over an acre of fenced play yards. Many of our small group activities take place outside under our beautiful trees. Outdoor activities that promote science awareness and muscular development are a part of our everyday schedule.
Our curriculum is carefully selected according to the age groups and the developmental needs of the children. Curricula include: Creative Curriculum for infants through three-year olds, DLM Early Childhood Express for our four-year olds in our Volunteer Pre-Kindergarten (VPK) program, the Investigator Club for the Pre-K afterschool program and Mindworks for our afterschool students. Program objectives and goals focus on Character Development, Positive Behavior and Feeling Buddies for our two-year old and up age groups. Project-based learning serves as the foundational principle for promoting critical thinking and collaboration, Other activites include: field trips, festivals, birthday parties and splash days as a part our our intergrated incorporated into the curriculum..
Happy House provides a family-friendly working environment for our staff and teachers. Our forty-five (45) member staff is composed of office personnel, housekeepers, maintenance, food service, teaching assistants, floating teachers and classroom teachers. The first goal of all staff members is to ensure the safety and security of children. In addition a warm and loving environment enhances a quality learning experience to prepare students for formal school.
Our teaching staff is highly trained the areas related to Child Development. The staff’s teaching credentials include Bachelor’s Degrees, Associates Degrees, and Child Development Associate Degrees. Teachers are required to obtain twenty-four (24) hours of annual in-service training and they maintain up-to-date CPR/First Aid.
Community Partners and Funding Sources
- Early Learning Coalition of Florida’s Gateway: Program funding includes Subsidized childcare, VPK, and the Childcare Executive Partnership
- Columbia County School District: Columbia 21st Century Community Learning Center for our afterschool program
- USDA Food Program: US Department of Agriculture Child Nutrition Program
- Columbia County School District- Career and Adult Education
- University of Florida Columbia Extension Office
- Columbia County Public Library
- Additional Community Partners:
United Way of Suwannee Valley
Rotary Club of Lake City
Kiwanas Club of Lake City
Altrusa of Lake City
Lake City Lions Club
Private Donations & Fundraising Events
In spite of the fact that Happy House participates in a number of federal and state programs, we would not have sufficient funds to operate without the generosity of private donations from civic organizations, churches, and individuals. Many donations received are earmarked for our scholarship program that assists families who “fall through the cracks” for outside funding.
2014 - 2015 Board of Directors
Chairperson: Joe Persons
Co-Chairperson: Judy Spring
Secretary: Diane Walker
Members-At-Large: Joan Allison, Celestine Levy, Cheryl Morgan, Sari Moses, Lisa Newbery, Georgia Smith, Marcia Kazmierski, Gary Laxton, Park Jones and Susie Rountree
Executive Director: Sheryll Walker
"A COPY OF THE OFFICIAL REGISTRATION AND FINANCIAL INFORMATION MAY BE OBTAINED FROM THE DIVISION OF CONSUMER SERVICES BY CALLING TOLL-FREE (800.435.7352) WITHIN THE STATE.
REGISTRATION DOES NOT IMPLY ENDORSEMENT, APPROVAL, OR RECOMMENDATION BY THE STATE." Registration #: CH1687
544 NW Lake Jeffery Rd. Lake City, FL 32055 386.751.4736
License # CO3C00018