'I have always wanted to have my own nursery': Teacher leaves Army to launch her own business
Young children have a new place to learn and play following the launch of a new nursery in town.
Qualified teacher Kerry Dowdall has set up ABC 123 Pre-school in Oxford Road, Hartlepool, after leaving Army life in Germany.
Kerry previously taught young children of servicemen and women for the Ministry of Defence.
But she decided to try to make her long-held dream of running her own nursery a reality after being faced with redundancy.
Kerry and husband Stephen have renovated a disused building and are offering apprenticeship opportunities after linking up with Hartlepool College of Further Education.
Kerry said: "The Army are coming out of Germany so all the staff are being made redundant so I made the decision to leave.
"I have always wanted to have my own nursery from when my children were little themselves.
"So I said let's try this with the redundancy package and see if we can make it work."
Originally from Wolverhampton, Kerry settled in Hartlepool after being taken with the town and her daughter lives close by in Stockton.
Hartlepool Borough Council last year granted planning permission to convert the building which had been unoccupied for more than five years and was last used as a builder’s yard.
"It was just an empty shell," said Kerry. "Since getting planning permission it has all been renovated."
Along with her husband Stephen, the nursery employs another full-time member of staff in Shade Foster.
Student Chloe Crannage is on placement as part of her college course and another apprentice, Jack Brallisford, is due to begin his apprenticeship after Easter.
Stephen and Kerry previously said: "We are passionate and believe learning should be fun."
They opened their doors three weeks ago and provide wrap around care for youngsters aged between 18 months and school age and will be open during school holidays.
And they are currently offering two free weeks of care to any armed services and NHS workers.
"They have given a lot to us and we just wanted to give something back," said Kerry.