Kimberly Crocker was known for her love of young children for over two decades as the founder of the Lighthouse Learning Center. She touched the lives of countless numbers of young children at her Boothbay day care until she died in an ATV accident on July 27, 2021.
Crocker built her business starting with a few kids in 1998 in a double-wide trailer. She later became a state licensed day care and preschool provider caring for the state-allowed maximum 48 children. For almost a year after her passing, Crocker’s business remained closed. But now, Crocker’s legacy continues as her daughter and brother reopened the center. On June 20, Morgan Crocker and her uncle Ed Crocker opened Kimmy’s Kids Early Learning Center in the same Pension Ridge location in Boothbay.
The Crockers welcomed 20 kids this summer. Morgan distinctly remembers three of her mother’s most enduring qualities. “Her laugh, how much she loved kids, and how much she loved me,” she said. Morgan wants the day care to emulate her mother’s genuine characteristics in caring for infants and preschool aged youngsters.
Morgan Crocker, 26, graduated from the University of Maine at Farmington in 2012 with a degree in business administration. She returned to Boothbay and began taking care of kids, working at times with her mother and as an occasional restaurant server. After her mother’s death, she wanted to continue her legacy and enlisted her uncle in restarting the business.
Ed Crocker remembers how his sister tried unsuccessfully in recruiting him to join her in the day care business. “She told me it would be great. They could open another center,” he said. But Ed wasn’t persuaded until Morgan approached him about her plans to reopen the center. “My sister ran the daycare for so long and this daycare center was sitting here not being used,” he said. “I talked to Morgan about what she wanted to do with her future and she wanted to run the daycare.”
The Lighthouse Early Learning Center’s closure left nearly four dozen families without daycare. Even with Kimmy’s Early Learning Center and two new day care businesses, Ed Crocker says demand is still growing. The Crockers are working toward reaching a maximum capacity of 48 children this fall. Ed Crocker is currently working toward becoming a certified day care provider. He is taking online classes with the goal of becoming certified this fall. Morgan Crocker has also resumed her education by taking early childhood education classes.
“Once I become certified, we can care for up to 48 kids, which was the number Kim had,” Ed Crocker said. “Parents lost their day care which forced some to stay home to care for their kids. It looks we will be full this fall. We have seven openings, but I expect to fill those soon.”
Assisting the Crockers are Felicia Peaslee, who works full-time, and Kaitlin Orne. a part-time worker. The day care fills kids’ days with fun, swimming, trips to the park, museum visits and field trips. On Aug. 4, the kids toured the Boothbay Harbor Police Department. The kids pretended to drive police cruisers, tried on police protective vests and given paper badges. This summer, the day care visited Urban Air in South Portland and York’s Wild Animal Kingdom in York.
Michael Murray is one of the day care’s kids. When asked his age, Michael displays an open-fist showing all five fingers. He enjoys playing with his friends, but most of all he enjoys the field trips. One to Saco was especially memorable. “Aquaboggan. Aquaboggan! You slide down, and it’s really fast,” he said.
Morgan Crocker focuses her time on the daily operation of caring for the kids. Her uncle concentrates on state paperwork which is by far the business’s most demanding challenge. “It’s not even close. There is a lot and this is why we are doing it together. Running a day care, creating a fall curriculum and keeping up with the state paperwork is more than one person can handle.”