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Relief for the Childcare Desert? A new childcare center is in sight

Posted at 4:01 PM, Dec 11, 2023
  • Video shows Kayla Lehman and Lorie Torbeck planning for Children First Development Center.
  • They hope that this new center will be able to care for 70 children.

(The following is a transcription of the full broadcast story)

Some relief is in sight for more childcare in Door County. I’m your Door County neighborhood reporter Katlyn Holt and I’ve been following the childcare desert for months—and now some help for parents could be coming in the summer of 2024.

"We started talking about what it would take to open a facility," said Lehman.

For the past 3 months, Kayla Lehman and Lorie Torbeck have been working on something big.

"Started as a little bit of a dream and we started putting things to paper and working with those in the community and here we are today," laughed Lehman.

Torbeck has almost 50 years of experience in early childhood education and Lehman has a background in business. They said they look at each other as the perfect pair to start a new childcare center. 

"We are working on developing a nonprofit called Children First Development Center," said Lehman.

The pair has worked with the United Way of Door County to develop plans for their business and until they achieve 501(c)(3) status, United Way has agreed to be their fiscal sponsor.

"I think everybody knows at this point that we have also lost some childcare in the community recently and so the knowledge that at least some of that is going to be refilled. It's comforting for us," said Gary.

Molly Gary, the Community Childcare Coordinator for United Way of Door County says early childcare isn’t just about today but the future of generations to come.

"90% of children's brain development occurs between the ages of zero and five," said Gary, "investing in childcare is an investment in the future of this community."

Torbeck and Lehman will know more on the future space for their center at the end of this month, but they are looking in and around the Sturgeon Bay area and are hoping to care for about 70 kids.

"It's important for the community to know that we are not in this to be competition for anybody. Door county needs childcare. We are in childcare desert up here,” said Torbeck. 

Torbeck says their center will foster imagination and promote creativity. Currently they are looking to recruit a diverse board of directors with different backgrounds that are passionate about childcare. They hope to work with existing childcare centers in the area to help tackle the issue of the childcare desert.

"We can work together and do things together for the good of everybody," said Torbeck.

If you would like to contact the Children First Development Center, email them at
and donations to help the center can also be made to the United Way of Door County.