On Sunday, Sertoma will give out their Service To Mankind Award at an open house from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at First Lutheran Church in St. James. This year’s recipients are Debbie and Kevin Haycraft.

On Sunday, Sertoma will give out their Service To Mankind Award at an open house from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at First Lutheran Church in St. James.  This year’s recipients are Debbie and Kevin Haycraft, a couple of lifelong St. James residents who have positively influenced the lives of countless children since 1990, through their home daycare business, the foster care program, and parenting their own three children.
The Haycraft’s home daycare started in 1990, when all three of their children were under the age of four and the parents need a place to watch them.  Unfortunately, because the youngest child was considered a toddler, there weren’t any locations willing to accept all three.  After a long search, Debbie and Kevin decided that they couldn’t possibly split the kids up every day, and Debbie realized that she could do it from home for a few years until the kids were older.
“It wasn’t the intent to have this job forever,” explained Debbie with a smile.  “I remember thinking I would do it for two or three years and then get a real job, but it’s turned into a neat career choice.”
When it first started they worked around the clock. Kevin would works the night shift and watch the kids who would stay over until two or three in the morning.  Then they would switch at 5 a.m. when their first customers of the day showed up and started they day with a greeting from Debbie.  Debbie also attempted to have as many kids under her supervision as legally allowed on her license, which was 14. The couple claims that they didn’t realize at the time how crazy it was, and that it took them a while to decide that they didn’t need to do as much.
“My first one today was here about 6:15,” said Debbie on Tuesday morning. “We do some evening care but try to be done by 10 p.m.”
Debbie believes that running a daycare isn’t a nine to five job, and that she has to be flexible to accommodate the parents she and her husband help out.  She explained “I never really understood the thinking that a professional could only watch kids on certain days, or certain hours, because parents need you to be flexible, and that’s who you’re really helping.”
Since the daycare opened, the Haycrafts have built a reputation amongst parents in the city.  News travels quickly in a small town, and word of mouth along with good fortune has helped them fulfill what has now become a passion. Once a family starts sending their kids to the Haycrafts, more often then not, they’ll continue to use them with their future children.  After running the daycare for almost 25 years, the couple is seen as part of the family for many in the local community.
“The first time one of the earlier [kids we watched] graduated from high school was really emotional. I felt so old,” said Debbie.  “None have had children of their own but that’s the next big step.”
Along with the daycare, the Haycraft are also foster parents.  Starting in the early 2000s, a lot of different kids came in and out their home.  Kevin and Debbie said that, of course they grew attached to all of the kids they watched and wanted to be major parts in their lives, but that it was never their intention to adopt any of them.  Then one day in 2009, they were notified that one of the foster children’s rights were being terminated, and were then asked if they would consider adoption.
“Adoption was never really anything we ever planned or thought about.  The question came out of nowhere and it was just like, “Oh, I guess that’s ok, we can do that,”” said Debbie.
“The first adoption was an emotional roller coaster, pretty long and pretty bumpy,” said Kevin.  “But they came into our lives and we fell in love with them.  There’s nothing you can do.”
The Haycrafts now have nine kids that they are responsible for, spanning from the age of 28 to five-years-old.  Seven are now officially Haycrafts, while one is currently going through the adoption process and another is staying with them full time and is considered part of the family.  Even though their first three children now live on their own, it’s rare to find a moment where at least six of them aren’t in the house.
With kids constantly around the house in one capacity or another, and seemingly endless things to take care of, Kevin and Debbie like to keep their hobbies simple for the time being.  Kevin enjoys cycling when he isn’t working at home or at Armour-Eckrich Meats, while Debbie likes to read when there’s some down time.  However, both agree that there’ll be plenty of time to relax later in life after all the kids have grown up.
“We’re very fortunate because we have three kids of our own that are healthy and amazing, that we went through the joys of school and sports with.  Not that many people get that chance to enjoy it all over again,” said Debbie.
The parents have without a doubt learned a lot over the year, and hope that the youngest under their watch currently--who has not yet officially gone through the adoption process--will benefit from all things they have experienced as a family.  However, the duo is still learning new things every day.  Kevin shared a story about a family vacation to Oregon a few years ago, where they traveled through the mountains in a van and had to travel a substantial distance on a dirt road thanks to construction.  During the adventure, they discovered that the constant changes in pressure that come with mountain driving isn’t very comfortable for babies, and that some of their adopted children are extremely vulnerable to motion sickness.
“Everybody was pretty shook up and I came out of it with a massive headache,” joked Kevin.
The large family sure has made a name for themselves, and easily attracts attention when out shopping or at the movie theater.  As of now, they don’t anticipate adopting any more children, however, Debbie pointed out that she’ll “never say it will or wont happen again, it’s just one of those things. It’s always one of those unexpected blessings.”