VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (NNS) -- The Sharon A. Peterson Child Development Center officially opened March 12 at Naval Air Station Oceana with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
The new center, located on G Avenue across from the Oceana Officers' Club, was named in honor of the former Navy Child and Youth Program manager who served from October 20, 2001, until her death from cancer Nov. 1.
Peterson also served as the Mid-Atlantic Region Child and Youth Program manager and the Quality of Life director for Norfolk Naval Shipyard, responsible for the Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) programs and bachelor housing.
"It's great for us to take this opportunity to dedicate this to Sharon Peterson, who dedicated her career to making Navy children, Navy families, [and] our Sailors' quality of life a priority," said Mid-Atlantic Region Commander Rear Adm. Rick Ruehe.
Attending the ribbon cutting ceremony were Peterson's husband, two daughters, her parents, and several other family members. Also attending were U.S. Representative Thelma Drake from Virginia's 2nd District and NAS Oceana Commanding Officer Capt. Patrick Lorge.
"Because Sharon gave so much of herself to better the lives of our families, it's only fitting we honor her today with her name on this wonderful building," Ruehe said.
Greg Young, deputy child and youth program director, who worked with Peterson, spoke about her devotion to her job.
"Her final position in her long career was the Navy's worldwide director of child and youth programs, where she focused on quality, accessibility and affordability of Navy child and youth programs," Young said.
"She had the attitude of making the effort -- in her professional and personal life. She's still touching people's lives, even though she's gone now," said Peterson's husband.
"This building is more than just bricks and mortar -- but it's held together with the understanding of what it takes to take care of our families, our Navy families. And Navy family care means support for our fleet readiness," said Ruehe.
The new child care center, a 29,105-square-foot facility, triples the size of the old one. The new center will accommodate 280 children, up from 88 at the former facility. Previously 15 full-time caregivers and six administrative personnel staffed the center; the new facility will employ 47 full-time caregivers and 13 administrative staff.
It's not just the size of the facility that has changed--the differences are apparent from the two staff members who greet visitors to the spacious, brightly painted hallways with covered boards for displaying artwork.
The energy-efficient building is equipped with heated hardwood floors. New furniture and toys complete each brightly lit room. The new large kitchen will turn out meals that will be served family dining-style. There are also separate break rooms and training rooms for staff.
The move to the new CDC was welcomed by both the staff and parents.
"It's much more open, it's high-tech. It makes things simpler and easier to get things done," said Education Technician Angeline Cristie, who works with infants.
Aviation Electrician's Mate 2nd Class (AW/SW) Nathaniel Hurt's 9 month-old son is cared for at the CDC by Christie and other staff in the infants' room.
"The upgrades are good. I like the brand new facility for the kids. But I'm glad they kept the caretakers. They do a good job," said Hurt, from the Center for Naval Aviation Technical Training Unit, Oceana.
Planning and funding for the new CDC has been in the works for several years, following reports about the deteriorating state of the center. Funding for the new CDC was provided as a congressional addition to the 2004 Military Construction Appropriations Act.
Drake was instrumental in supporting the building of the new CDC.
"It feels like I was just here (for the groundbreaking)," said Drake, who also participated in the groundbreaking ceremony March 25, 2005.
"A facility like this gives assurances [that] children are well cared for," she said. Drake added that it will allow military parents to do their jobs without worrying about how their young children are cared for.
Young said that coincidently, the opening of Oceana's brand new CDC came shortly after the announcement by the National Association of Childcare Resource and Referral Agency, which ranked military child care as No. 1 in the country for quality and standard.
Young was also pleased to announce two more brand new child development centers are planned for the Hampton Roads area: one at Naval Station Norfolk and the second at Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth.
"These facilities make up the largest expansion at any one time in the history of Navy child care programs," said Young.
For related news, visit the Naval Air Station Oceana Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/oceana/.