Five years ago, two co-workers and friends, both natives of Belmont County, were seeking quality child care for their soon-to-be-born children. Heather (Starr) Thompson and Alexis (Kozlowski) Radcliff met in 2001 in Athens were they both worked in childrens programming for the Athens park department and Ohio Universitys Kids on Campus Program. Thompson said quality child care was difficult to find, so the friends decided to open their own facility in 2007.

Stages Early Learning Center located on West Union Street in Athens, Ohio, will be celebrating their 5th Anniversary on Monday, October 1, 2012. Later that same week, on Thursday, October 4, they will be celebrating with a Ribbon Cutting Ceremony of their second location in Albany, Ohio. Attendance at the Athens facility doubled since the business began, creating a need to relocate to a building twice the size of the original.

When looking back, Im amazed and so proud that we have come so far in such a short period of time, said co-owner Thompson. Not only are we celebrating our anniversary, but after opening our business, we have expanded our current facility (doubled in size) and then opened another site in the next town all within five years. This is a great accomplishment and a dream come true!

I feel so proud of Heather and myself. We started from scratch and built an incredible child care center and business for our families and the Athens community. Im looking forward to staying at the top of our field for many more years to come, said Radcliff.

Thompson said they were approached by the owner of the building in Albany about using it for a child care business two years ago, but at the time, they did not think their business could support a second location. They agreed to consult with the building owners. Another year later, the realty management company, unable to find another company they liked as well as Stages, convinced Thompson and Radcliff to

Stages is a privately owned small business operated by Radcliff and Thompson. Alexis is from Bellaire and graduated from Bellaire High School in 1995. Radcliff received a Bachelor of Arts degree in both Theater and Psychology from Ohio University. Heather is from Bethesda and graduated from Union Local High School in 1992. Thompson received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Dance and a K-12 Teaching Certification from The University of Akron.

Radcliff said, Its such a pleasure to come to work every day when you love what you do and who you work with. I feel incredibly lucky to be a part of this business!

We could not have done this without the support of our families, Thompson stated. Radcliff and Thompsons families still reside in the Ohio Valley area and have all traveled to Athens on numerous occasions to help them paint, assemble new equipment and furniture and set up the office and classrooms at both locations.

Stages Early Learning Center in Athens houses children ages six weeks 12 years, while Stages Albany offers care for children ages 2 - 12 years. Between both centers they have 104 children enrolled and 30 staff members. For more information about Stages, please visit their web site at www.stagesearlylearningcenter.com.