By ANNA CLAIRE O’CAIN
Tucked away in Mississippi’s capital city is the state’s only privately owned childcare center located in a federal space: Little Acorns, established in 1990 and located in the Dr. AH McCoy Federal Building.
Little Acorns Center Director and Jackson native Ashley Elmore and staff are passionate about providing a nurturing and safe environment for infants, toddlers and preschoolers. Ashley shares how God’s perfect timing and her lifelong love for children have allowed her to live out her faith daily.
“My little brother grew up with autism and he’s nonverbal,” Ashley says. “I’ve always just had a passion for working with children. I started volunteering with my church as a vacation Bible school leader, and when I got to college, I majored in child development and later got my master’s in early intervention. That (deals with) working with children that have developmental delays.”
As her graduate program came to a close, Ashley began looking for a job so she could complete her internship. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, her choices were limited.
“Everything was pretty much virtual. Little Acorns really wasn’t working with early intervention necessarily, but I had that child development background. (They) were looking for a new director, so the timing was kind of perfect.”
She says she felt a sense of home from the moment she walked in. “Everybody was so friendly and introduced themselves to me. All the staff members are great.”
After completing her internship at Little Acorns and learning alongside the previous director, Ashley became center director in April 2021.
“I didn’t even know that this place existed (before),” Ashley says. “It’s like a hidden gem, (which) is what a lot of parents have called it. … Most people don’t even know a childcare center is there.”
Another part of Little Acorns that stood out to Ashley was its accreditation and commitment to quality childcare. “It’s a NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children) accredited school. They have had this accreditation since they have been open. (They) have the qualifications and exceed beyond every expectation I had ever had. The people that work there (and) the kids are wonderful,” she says.
“You could be having a hard time, or something be going on outside of work, and you just walk in and those children just light up your face. They’re so curious, and everything in the world is just fascinating to them. They have so much energy.”
Serving the children at Little Acorns also allows Ashley to live out her faith daily. “I pray for the kids I work with,” she says. “(There are) a lot of different stories that you hear when working in childcare. (We) have children in the foster care system, we have children who don’t get to see their parents. … I’ve really learned a lot about the power of prayer when (I) pray for these families.”
As Ashley serves children, she says she owes much of her inspiration to her mom, a former nurse and teacher. “She’s (now) a full-time caretaker for my brother,” Ashley says. “(And) she is such a strong woman in her faith. (She) would always read Bible verses to me, and bedtime stories about the Bible. … watching her use that to bless others is just incredible. (So) I just want to be so much like her.”
Little Acorns’ hours are Monday-Friday 6:45 a.m. – 5:45 p.m. They currently have a few childcare openings and are seeking more teachers. For more information, call 601.965.4999 or visit littleacornsms.com.