In the Spotlight | Woman’s passion for education leads to child care, event center | News


EBENSBURG, Pa. – An Ebensburg-area woman, driven by her passion for education and her community, has opened a child care and event center.

Leah Brooks had worked as a special education teacher in the public school system for 13 years when she thought a change was needed.

“I thought I wasn’t making a big enough difference, and you go into teaching to change lives, and I felt like I wasn’t impacting enough families, enough lives,” she said.

Brooks said she heard about the need for a day care in Ebensburg and the difficulty in finding child care.

“It was time for me to change, and it was a way I could really impact a lot of families and a lot of children’s lives and their futures by starting from the start,” she said.

Two years ago, she resigned her teaching job and started an in-home day care with several children, then moved into her current building at 302 Reddinger St., where Barrels of Fun Exploration Center is housed, after her brother closed his computer business there.

The center opened in September and offers a Reggio Emilia- and Montessori- inspired learning experience that is child-led and filled with outdoor activities. The center can potentially care for up to 60 children.

“It was a huge undertaking, but definitely worth it,” Brooks said.

She said she wants the center to be not only a day care, but also a community place.

“Outside of the day care hours, I want this to be a place where you can have birthday parties, open exploration times and have more things for preteens and for older kids to do,” Brooks said.

“So I’m not sure where this is going to take me. We started with day care, but we have lots of ideas to keep growing and have an amazing summer program for school-aged kids.”

Brooks said that the open play sessions cost a small fee and give children a chance to play with different toys. She added that the center also has featured several parents’ nights out, where children could play and participate in activities and the parents could support a local business.

She plans to expand offerings because she wants Barrels of Fun to be a place for the community.

“Our community is getting young again. I feel it went through a phase where there wasn’t as many babies, but now I feel like our community is young again and I want to grow with our community,” she said.

“I just love my town. I love Ebensburg. I was born and raised here, and I feel like it’s something we need. We need something for our youth and a place for them to go.”

In October, the center hosted a family-friendly OktoberFest, and Brooks said it was the start of events in the community hosted by Barrels of Fun.

In December, the center will host Santa Sundays, where Santa will visit on a Sunday and children can make ice cream sundaes with Santa and play in the center.

Brooks said the center is also available for event rentals.

Katie Smolen is a reporter with The Tribune-Democrat. Follow her on Twitter @KSmolen1230.

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