Robyn Chrysler’s proclivity to care for others is a character trait that has been with her since she was a young child.
“I used to bring wild animals home all the time,” said Robyn. “I actually cared for an injured coyote in our barn – which my dad was none-too-pleased about when he found out. But I couldn’t help it – I’ve always had this need to rescue living creatures, animal and human.”
A marketing and advertising professional for most of her professional life, Robyn decided to leave her career to combine two things she loves – children and play. She opened Kiddie City in Monett, Mo. Initially as a kid play place, giving local families a place to take their children for fun activities, birthday parties and more.
But then tragedy struck her family, with the passing of her son, mother and father in a span of one year. To cope with such an immense loss, Robyn did what she does best – help others. She threw all of her passion for children and helping others into a new venture: a preschool. And not just any preschool. Robyn transformed Kiddie City into a 24-hour preschool to ensure she could help families with parents who work outside of the typical nine-to-five job. And the school not only provides services to young children, but also serves kids up to the age of 12.
“It’s about the opportunity to shape young minds and put my child psychology training to good use. It’s about helping kiddos with disabilities like autism and ADHD, or kiddos with anger issues,” said Robyn. “In my prior roles, I missed a lot of time with my family – I’m making up for lost time and helping others at the same time. It’s a win-win.”
Operating a 24-hour child care center is a challenge on its own, but factor in a pandemic, and those challenges increase exponentially. Having worked in the newspaper and magazine business, Robyn stays up to date on current events, which helped her get ahead of the game. After seeing the news coming out of China and Europe, she immediately began making preparations such as buying extra hand sanitizer and installing automatic hand sanitizer machines in the event the pandemic hit the U.S. – which it did just a few short weeks later.
When the schools in her area closed, Robyn was ready. As one of the only licensed child care centers still open, Robyn saw a surge in enrollments from families with essential workers. Normally a 49-child center (which covers 78 families because the center operates 24 hours per day), she has been able to secure a 16-child emergency overage to account for the increase in demand.
When asked about the new policies and procedures she has put in place, Robyn said her relationship with the local health department has helped her make sure she’s covering all her bases.
“We’ve placed rugs inside the entrance to show parents where they can stand when dropping off their children – they can’t go any further than those rugs,” said Robyn. “We also ask both the parents and the children to sanitize their hands, after which, we do a temperature check on the child. He or she must have a temperature under 99 degrees to enter.”
Robyn has the children over two years old wear masks, and asks that families leave items like bags, toys and food at home to minimize virus transfer – she has everything they need, including meals.
Providing child care for local families isn’t all Robyn is doing to support her community. She also opened up a food pantry, a baby essentials pantry (diapers, wipes, etc.) and a clothing donation operation. She coordinates all of the volunteers to accept donations as well as make deliveries to families in need.
“A lot of the families I serve rely on the schools to feed their kids,” said Robyn. “Because the schools have closed, many families – especially those without transportation – are unable to get the food and supplies they need. I’m grateful to be able to help out.”
Asked about what she does in her free time, Robyn laughed: “I really don’t have any free time, but when I do, I spend it with my six foster children and all of my animals.”
When looking to the future, Robyn says she wants to turn Kiddie City into a non-profit and create a system where no in in her five-county area will go without child care because they can’t afford it.
“It’s my way of saving the world,” said Robyn. “There are people in my life who I couldn’t save, but there are many out there who I can, and that’s what drives me.”