Odessa nonprofit daycare trying to recoup $147,000 in unpaid client bills

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ODESSA, Mo. -- Managers at a daycare center in Lafayette County say they need money -- and fast.

Leaders at Odessa Community Daycare Center said they've lost out on $147,000 to cover the center's bills, and most of that money comes from parents who haven't paid their weekly bills.

In a town of 5,200, where there are only four listed daycare centers, child care is scarce.

Odessa Community Daycare Center's newly appointed director, Lacey Frazier, took her job on Monday. She and her mother, Ann Sayers, who became the center's board president in May, told FOX4 past managers failed to collect payments from clients to the tune of $147,000 that stretches back several years.

The center's managers said they're not planning to pursue legal action to recover the money.

"Pretty quick. We need some help," Sayers said.

Fourteen employees work at the daycare center, caring for as many as 55 Lafayette County children during the day. Frazier uses a wheelchair to get around. She's able to manage the center despite living with a severe form of spina bifida.

Sayers said she's already dipped into her own 401(k) retirement account once to pay her center's staff -- but she can't afford to do that again.

Frazier and Sayers said they also had to replace a heating and cooling unit that broke down this summer, which put a strain on their budget.

The duo said the building was built in 1983, and it's in dire need of paint, repairs and modernization, including a permanent wheelchair ramp for Frazier and others to use.

"I don`t know who exactly was responsible to collect fees from the parents, but some of our parents, former parents, didn't quite leave with a clean slate. Not all their fees were paid," Sayers told FOX4.

"It's urgent. I don't know that we can go another month or two without help, without something," Frazier said. "We have to pay our bills and we have to pay our staff."

Daycare leaders said they're also on probation with the state due to the actions of past employees.

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services investigated two incidents, including one where a teacher slapped a child. Sayers said that employee was fired and prosecuted.

Daycare leaders presented FOX4 with documents concerning those incidents, adding that they expect their probation to end soon.

"A lot of people rely (on the center). That`s their only source of income," said Yvette Hoglen, a pre-K teacher at the daycare. "If this place goes out of business, what are they going to do? How are they going to pay for their bills and take care of their kids? Where are they going to send their kids?"

Sayers and Frazier said they're planning a yard sale for Sept. 7, which could help them recoup a few dollars. They plan to stay in business as long as they can, but without some help, they may have to close up.

Frazier said donations are being accepted through Bank of Odessa. There's an account designed to ensure donated dollars reach the center.

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