Beautiful sunny skies, warm, but mild temperatures and the sounds of happy children was the backdrop during the morning of June 26, as Pine Bluff Arsenal held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a new Child Development Center Annex.

Missy Brodnax, director of Family Morale, Welfare and Recreations welcomed everyone to the ceremony. "I see we have representatives here from all over the Arsenal," she said. "We also have some special guests here today. We have the Pine Bluff Regional Chamber of Commerce and the White Hall Chamber of Commerce present in our audience, as well as children from our program. Thank you all for being here."

Brodnax said that it seemed like only a few months had passed since the ground breaking ceremony for the new building. "That was back in October, and now we are here getting ready to open the doors on this beautiful new facility," she said.

She then asked that the CYSS pre-school come forward to lead the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance. This was followed by an invocation by Amelio Howard.

The new facility, what is known as a CDC-60, will have spaces for 60 children. It is a $4.2 million non-appropriated funds major construction project for the Arsenal, and was built because of an extreme demand for care. The current facility, which originally cost $2.4 million, served 214 Families in fiscal year 2011, offering care to children ages six weeks to 18 years of age.

Brodnax then introduced Debbie Johnson, CYSS Coordinator for the Directorate of Family Morale, Welfare and Recreation. "I had the pleasure of handing over the keys to Debbie four years ago," she said. "She had done an excellent job with the program. She also tells me daily about the wonderful staff that she gets to work with and the amazing things we do."

Johnson said that even with a beautiful facility, the best curriculum, classrooms that would wow any teacher and magnificent toys that would excite any child; the staff is the most important thing. "It takes a dependable, qualified and loving staff to insure the best care for our children," she said. "This Arsenal has been blessed with a unique team of personnel that are not only dedicated to their job but a team that believes in what they do, goes beyond the call of duty -- a team that loves what they do and a team that has a wonderful time while caring for your children."

She said that she can honestly say that she loves coming to work every day -- not only because of the children and families -- but because of the staff. "The CYS Services team takes pride in caring for the children of PBA and they know and understand that each child is not only a gift to their families, but to our community and the world that they serve," she said.

Currently, CYS Services has 34 staff members. Another 13 to 15 staff will be hired for the new facility in the next month, according to Johnson. Johnson introduced all of the staff (including the summer hires) of the CDC, School-Age Center and the Middle School/Teen Programs. "We truly appreciate what everyone here on the Arsenal does for CYS Services," she said. "It takes a village to raise a child. And, we have our village here."

Johnson introduced Arsenal commander Col. Franz J. Amann as the keynote speaker. "Since his arrival here in 2009, he and his wife, Mary, have volunteered many hours working with our children and youth," she said. "Their dedication to our Families has not gone unnoticed. Col. Amann has played an integral part in assuring that this project reached its completion. This project is very near and dear to our commander. And, a week did not pass without him asking if the grand opening would be in June."

The commander welcomed everyone out, despite the heat, and said it was nice to see all the parents in the audience. "It is a beautiful site here. Almost three years in the making, but now we have our much needed child care annex," he said. "Today is not only about the new building but strength in our communities."

Amann offered his thanks to everyone that was part of the project. "This is a commitment not only to the Arsenal, but to the Soldiers and Families....we are committed to providing a high-quality of life to our Families that is equal to none. This is not only reserved for our Soldiers, but to every person who makes our Army great," he said. "

Parents need to know that their children are in a safe, secure and enriching environment so that they can work and concentrate on their jobs, he said. "This assurance is a necessity. I have visited the Arsenal's Child, Youth and School Services often, and I know that each child truly enjoys spending their time there. I know I do. It gets me out of the office and I get to play with the kids a bit. This gives me great comfort knowing that the children are well taken care of."

This project was funded through the National Defense Authorization Act, said Amann. "This is special funding approved by Congress. We were fortunate to receive this funding last year to complete this project with the looming budget cuts," he said. "This is part of the Army Family Covenant pledge and is just another assurance that we are taking care of them and their children. We want to make sure we continue this growth and find more programs for Families."
The program concluded with the ribbon-cutting and a tour of the facility, classrooms and playground space.