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Festus daycare center to shut down, affecting more than 100 children

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Festus daycare center to shut down, affecting more than 100 children

FESTUS, Mo. – A daycare center in Festus will permanently close its doors this month, forcing families of more than 100 kids to find new help.

The Wee Care Learning Center plans to shut down on Dec. 17 due to costs. Staff members said they received notices over the past couple of months, warning them that the daycare would eventually close — but the owner’s decision to shut down earlier than anticipated hit them hard.

“It was so sudden. We don’t know what to do, and we’re in limbo,” said Dianne Russom, the lead teacher at the Wee Care Learning Center.

Retirement isn’t in the cards, but it’s the kids they’re more concerned about.

“I mean there are some still starting next week,” said Russo. “They’re going to do the last two weeks that they can do with us because they were on maternity leave, and they have nowhere else to go.”

Parents like J.R. Hamilton said they don’t know what to do, as many daycare centers in the area have a waitlist.

“Everyone is scrambling, not just ourselves to find childcare, but the whole Jefferson County is just inundated,” said Hamilton.

Some parents said they will have to temporarily leave their jobs or reduce their work hours to stay at home with their kids.

“I’m going to have to take three to six months off from work just to be home,” said parent Nicole Kilian.

Another parent, Ryan Fonner, said: “My wife and I both work at Mercy at the outpatient treatment center and we’re actually having to go down to part-time care for them.”

Donna Ames, the assistant director at the Wee Care Learning Center, said the closure is especially hard because the staff has built a connection with all the children.

“You can tell that the parents have told their kids that they’re going somewhere else, and they’re having the same emotions that we all are,“ said Ames.

In 2019, a ballot measure was approved by Festus School District voters to raise taxes to pave the way for new projects, including an early childhood program.

In a statement, the Festus School District Superintendent said: “It is a facility that checks all of the boxes that would be required to start an early childhood education program in the district. The district has not yet closed on the facility, but we are hopeful that will occur in the coming weeks.”

The district’s early childhood program, won’t start until later in 2023.

For those still looking for new childcare, the school district is in talks with other childcare agencies to provide care after they close.

A Wee Care parent also made a Facebook group called “Families of Wee Care” to connect parents from the past and present.

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U.S. and Russia try to lower temperature in Ukraine crisis

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U.S. and Russia try to lower temperature in Ukraine crisis

GENEVA — The United States and Russia sought to lower the temperature in a heated standoff over Ukraine, even as they reported no breakthroughs in high-stakes talks on Friday aimed at preventing a feared Russian invasion.

Armed with seemingly intractable and diametrically opposed demands, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met in Geneva for roughly 90 minutes at what the American said was a “critical moment.”

But there was no apparent movement on either side. Blinken said the U.S. and its allies remain resolute in rejecting Russia’s most important demands, which were laid out in writing in two proposals last month, and reiterated on Friday. Moscow wants NATO to promise that Ukraine will never be added as a member, that no alliance weapons will be deployed near Russian borders, and that it pull back its forces from Central and Eastern Europe.

Blinken told Lavrov the U.S. would give Russia written responses to Moscow’s proposals next week and suggested the two would likely meet again shortly after that — possibly delaying any invasion for at least a few more days.

Despite that, there was no indication the U.S. responses would be any different from the flat-out rejections already expressed publicly by Washington and its allies, clouding future diplomatic efforts.

With an estimated 100,000 Russian troops massed near Ukraine, many fear Moscow is preparing an invasion although Russia denies that. The U.S. and its allies are scrambling to present a united front to prevent that or coordinate a tough response if they can’t.

“We didn’t expect any major breakthroughs to happen today, but I believe we are now on a clearer path to understanding each other’s positions,” Blinken said after the meeting.

Blinken said Lavrov repeated Russia’s insistence that it has no plans to invade Ukraine, but the U.S. and its allies were not convinced.

“We’re looking at what is visible to all, and it is deeds and actions and not words that make all the difference,” he said, adding that Russia should remove its troops from the Ukrainian border if it wanted to prove its point.

Lavrov, meanwhile, called the talks “constructive and useful” but declined to characterize the U.S. pledge.

“I can’t say whether we are on the right track or not,” he told reporters. “We will understand that when we receive the U.S. written response to all of our proposals.”

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Louie Anderson, Emmy-winning comedian, dies at 68

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Louie Anderson, Emmy-winning comedian, dies at 68

LOS ANGELES — Louie Anderson, whose more than four-decade career as a comedian and actor included his unlikely, Emmy-winning performance as mom to twin adult sons in the TV series “Baskets,” died Friday. He was 68.

Anderson died at a hospital in Las Vegas of complications from cancer, said Glenn Schwartz, his longtime publicist. Anderson had a a type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, Schwartz said previously.

Anderson won a 2016 Emmy for best supporting actor for his portrayal of Christine Baskets, mother to twins played by Zach Galifianakis. Anderson received three consecutive Emmy nods for his performance.

He was a familiar face elsewhere on TV, including as host of a revival of the game show “Family Feud” from 1999 to 2002, and on comedy specials and in frequent late-night talk show appearances.

Anderson voiced an animated version of himself as a kid in “Life With Louie.” He created the cartoon series, which first aired in prime time in late 1994 before moving to Saturday morning for its 1995-98 run. Anderson won two Daytime Emmy Awards for the role.

He made guest appearances in several TV series, including “Scrubs” and “Touched by an Angel,” and was on the big screen in 1988′s “Coming to America” and in last year’s sequel to the Eddie Murphy comedy.

Anderson also toured regularly with his stand-up act and as a stand-up comedian.

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Meat Loaf, “Bat Out of Hell” rock superstar, dies at 74

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Meat Loaf, “Bat Out of Hell” rock superstar, dies at 74

NEW YORK — Meat Loaf, the heavyweight rock superstar loved by millions for his “Bat Out of Hell” album and for such theatrical, dark-hearted anthems as “Paradise By the Dashboard Light,” “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad,” and “I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That),” has died. He was 74.

The singer born Marvin Lee Aday died Thursday, according to a family statement provided by his longtime agent Michael Greene.

“Our hearts are broken to announce that the incomparable Meat Loaf passed away tonight,” the statement said. “We know how much he meant to so many of you and we truly appreciate all of the love and support as we move through this time of grief in losing such an inspiring artist and beautiful man… From his heart to your souls… don’t ever stop rocking!”

No cause or other details were given, but Aday had numerous health scares over the years.

“Bat Out of Hell,” his mega-selling collaboration with songwriter Jim Steinman and producer Todd Rundgren, came out in 1977 and made him one of the most recognizable performers in rock.

Fans fell hard for the roaring vocals of the long-haired, 250-plus pound singer and for the comic non-romance of the title track, “You Took The Words Right Out of My Mouth,” “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad” and “Paradise By the Dashboard Light,” an operatic cautionary tale about going all the way.

“Paradise” was a duet with Ellen Foley that featured play-by-play from New York Yankees broadcaster Phil Rizzuto, who alleged — to much skepticism — that he was unaware of any alternate meanings to reaching third base and heading for home.

After a slow start and mixed reviews, “Bat Out of Hell” became one of the top-selling albums in history, with worldwide sales of more than 40 million copies. Meat Loaf wasn’t a consistent hit maker, especially after falling out for years with Steinman. But he maintained close ties with his fans through his manic live shows, social media and his many television, radio and film appearances, including “Fight Club” and cameos on “Glee” and “South Park.”

Friends and fans mourned his death on social media. “I hope paradise is as you remember it from the dashboard light, Meat Loaf,” actor Stephen Fry said on Twitter. Andrew Lloyd Webber tweeted: “The vaults of heaven will be ringing with rock.” And Adam Lambert called Meat Loaf: “A gentle hearted powerhouse rock star forever and ever. You were so kind. Your music will always be iconic.”

Meat Loaf’s biggest musical success after “Bat Out of Hell” was “Bat Out of Hell II: Back into Hell,” a 1993 reunion with Steinman that sold more than 15 million copies and featured the Grammy-winning single “I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That).”

Steinman died in April.

Aday’s other albums included “Bat Out of Hell III: The Monster is Loose,” “Hell in a Handbasket” and “Braver Than We Are.” His songs included “Dead Ringer for Love” with Cher and she shared on Twitter that she “had so much fun” on the duet. “Am very sorry for his family, friends and fans.”

A native of Dallas, Aday was the son of a school teacher who raised him on her own after divorcing his alcoholic father, a police officer. Aday was singing and acting in high school (Mick Jagger was an early favorite, so was Ethel Merman) and attended Lubbock Christian College and what is now the University of North Texas. Among his more notable childhood memories: Seeing John F. Kennedy arrive at Love Field in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963, then learning the president had been assassinated and driving to Parkland Hospital and watching a bloodied Jackie Kennedy step out of a car.

He was still a teenager when his mother died and when he acquired the nickname Meat Loaf, the alleged origins of which range from his weight to a favorite recipe of his mother’s. He left for Los Angeles after college and was soon fronting the band Meat Loaf Soul. For years, he alternated between music and the stage, recording briefly for Motown, opening for such acts as the Who and the Grateful Dead and appearing in the Broadway production of “Hair.”

By the mid-1970s, he was playing the lobotomized biker Eddie in the theater and film versions of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” had served as an understudy for his friend John Belushi for the stage production of National Lampoon and had begun working with Steinman on “Bat Out of Hell.” The dense, pounding production was openly influenced by Wagner, Phil Spector and Bruce Springsteen, whose bandmates Roy Bittan and Max Weinberg played on the record. Rundgren initially thought of the album as a parody of Springsteen’s grandiose style.

Steinman had known Meat Loaf since the singer appeared in his 1973 musical “More Than You Deserve” and some of the songs on “Bat Out of Hell,” including “All Revved Up With No Place to Go,” were initially written for a planned stage show based on the story of Peter Pan. “Bat Out of Hell” took more than two years to find a taker as numerous record executives turned it down, including RCA’s Clive Davis, who disparaged Steinman’s songs and acknowledged that he had misjudged the singer: “The songs were coming over as very theatrical, and Meat Loaf, despite a powerful voice, just didn’t look like a star,” Davis wrote in his memoir, “The Soundtrack of My Life.”

With the help of another Springsteen sideman, Steve Van Zandt, “Bat Out of Hell” was acquired by Cleveland International, a subsidiary of Epic Records. The album made little impact until months after its release, when a concert video of the title track was aired on the British program the Old Grey Whistle Test. In the U.S., his connection to “Rocky Horror” helped when he convinced producer Lou Adler to use a video for “Paradise By the Dashboard Light” as a trailer for the cult movie. But Meat Loaf was so little known at first that he began his “Bat Out of Hell” tour in Chicago as the opening act for Cheap Trick, then one of the world’s hottest groups.

“I remember pulling up at the theater and it says, ‘TONIGHT: CHEAP TRICK, WITH MEAT LOAF.’ And I said to myself, ‘These people think we’re serving dinner,’” Meat Loaf explained in 2013 on the syndicated radio show “In the Studio.”

“And we walk out on stage and these people were such Cheap Trick fans they booed us from the start. They were getting up and giving us the finger. The first six rows stood up and screamed… When we finished, most of the boos had stopped and we were almost getting applause.”

He is survived by Deborah Gillespie, his wife since 2007, and by daughters Pearl and Amanda Aday.

___

AP Entertainment Writer Andrew Dalton contributed from Los Angeles.

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