Welcome to Munchkinland
Megan McKarnin was content running Munchkinland, a daycare and preschool started by her mother, the late Teresa Cook, years ago in the 400 block of East Jackson, just east of Iola High School.
So when she fielded a call several months ago about buying the Harvest Baptist Church building from its head pastor, Tony Godfrey, McKarnin politely declined.
“At the time I didn’t need it,” she said. “Then came the school bond issue.”
When USD 257 voters approved all three ballot measures in April, a new high school science building was included.
To accommodate the new science center, a handful of properties along the 400 block of East Jackson were or are in the process of being purchased by the school district.
That meant McKarnin needed to find a new site, and soon.
She went back to Godfrey, and asked to tour the church at 401 S. Walnut St.
“It was perfect,” McKarnin said.
On second thought, it was more than perfect, she quickly added.
With two separate buildings and a spacious play area, McKarnin realized she could expand her daycare and preschool.
In search of a partner, Mc-Karnin placed a call to lifelong friend and former classmate Hayley Westerman, who also ran a daycare from her home in Iola.
“She was the first person I asked,” McKarnin recalled. “I figured she’d want to think about it.”
Instead, Westerman gave her the answer she was looking for in a matter of minutes.
“You don’t want to talk about it first?” an incredulous McKarnin asked.
“No,” Westerman said. “I’m ready to get out of the house. Having kids in your house is stressful. This way, it’s nice to leave work at work.”
The conversation was part of a rapid domino effect that has created new homes for the daycare and preschool — now called Munchkinland and More — and to Harvest Baptist, which is renting the old Calvary United Methodist Church building at the intersection of Jackson and Walnut streets.
Harvest Baptist held its first church service at the Calvary building at the end of May.
Munchkinland opened its doors June 5.
“It’s really worked out well,” Godfrey told the Register. “It’s kind of a win-win for everybody.”
Munchkinland and More owners Megan McKarnin, left, and Hayley Westerman opened the daycare center and preschool at its new location at 401 S. Walnut St. earlier this month.
WITH ITS new location, Munchkinland and More now has slots for 60 children — McKarnin and Westerman previously oversaw 12 youngsters apiece — along with preschool services throughout the summer. (In the past, McKarnin did preschool only during the school year; Westerman did daycare only.)
With the expanded programs, McKarnin and Westerman added six staffers.
But first came a month of feverishly getting the old church up to code.
“It’s structurally sound,” McKarnin said. “But we had to do things like add stainless steel doors and fire extinguishers for fire codes.”
Youngsters keep themselves occupied at Munchkinland and More, at the former home of Harvest Baptist Church.
The old church sanctuary, the Munchkinland Room, is dedicated for school-aged kids. The satellite building, which serves children as young as 2 weeks to 5 years of age, has other “Wizard of Oz”-themed rooms. The Poppyseed Room is for infants; the Kansas Room for toddlers; Over the Yellow Brick Road is for 3-and-4-year-olds; and Over the Rainbow for the older kids.
The outdoor play area is fenced in and offers age-appropriate amenities for older and younger tots as well.
“It was a crazy month, but we made it,” Westerman said. “Luckily, we both have good husbands. They’re the ones who made it happen.”
Even with the new location, work remains. McKarnin is continuing her college education in order to become a certified preschool instructor, which she estimates will take another couple of years.
SELLING ITS home for the past 10 years was the best solution for Harvest Baptist, Godfrey said, because of space limitations. For several decades, the building was home for Grace Lutheran Church.
A growing church membership forced Godfrey to schedule two services each Sunday. With upward of 180 members, the congregation faced a dilemma.
“Our membership had steadied, but it has begun to grow again,” he said. “It’s a fantastic problem to have, but in the future, it was going to become an issue.”
Godfrey described the decision to sell as “taking a leap of faith.”
“We’re able to get a little bit of funding to possibly find something else that’s bigger,” he said. “The Methodists were gracious in allowing us to rent Calvary.”
But a permanent home still must be found.
“There’s some fear and trepidation any time you do something like that,” Godfrey said. “We put our trust in the Lord, and He’ll provide for us. It’s an exciting position for us to be in.”
Pastor Tony Godfrey addresses the Harvest Baptist Church congregation at the church’s first service at its temporary home, the former Calvary United Methdodist Church in Iola May 26.