HAMMOND — Half of U.S. families report difficulty finding child care, according to the Department of Education, and nearly 1 million families never find the program they want.
The South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority has been working to take that burden off their employees for the past 22 years with their own in-office child care program. Speros Batistatos, president and CEO of the SSCVA, said many companies "talk about being a family."
"Ours is demonstrative of that to our employees every day," Batistatos said. "We are a family, and we are very serious about that and it starts with the birth of a child that comes into our workplace."
The inception of the program started in January 1997. Cathy Hricik was vice president of operations for the SSCVA and had just given birth to her daughter, Carolyn.
"After Carolyn was born, Cathy came to me and said, 'I'm going to have to resign,' and I said 'Why?'" Batistatos said.
Batistatos listened to her discuss the issues she had with finding care for her newborn. He decided quickly, "Why not bring the baby to work?" and Carolyn become baby No. 1 in the new program. Around the same time, Katie Holderby, now executive vice president, gave birth to the second baby in the program, Reagan.
"It has given us an incredible benefit with our people. ... I see outstanding young people who are excelling in everything they do," Batistatos said. "This is an investment that's made for all the right reasons."
SSCVA has had 15 children through the program. Batistatos affectionately has nicknamed the children "little time sponges," but he said the minimal loss of time during the workday is worth it in order to keep "loyalty" and the "lack of turnover we have here."
The Hricik family moved to Connecticut in 2000 and recently came back to the Region after Carolyn Hricik graduated from Pace University. She said stories of her mother's job at the SSCVA "inspired me to want that for myself."
"I definitely looked for a career path and organization that would embody the same values and the same ideas of having that culture and family life," Hricik said.
Hricik accepted Batistatos' offer to do an internship with the CVA, coming "back to my roots," she said.
Reagan Holderby also is doing a similar internship with the Greater Lafayette Convention and Visitors Bureau while finishing college at Purdue University.
"This is an embodiment of 22 years of our culture, and now we have two incredibly talented young women who are from the DNA of our organization," Batistatos said. "This is about the next generation ... to me, it's the story about the intertwining of family and profession."