“Seeds of Learning kicks off capital campaign,” originally appeared on pagosa.com, Dec. 14, 2004

A $50,000 grant from the Daniels Fund for Seeds of Learning might be lost.

The grant, awarded in February 2004 to help finance the construction of a new child and family care center, is a matching grant. Seeds of Learning will get $50,000 when they have raised $50,000 in matching funds from local businesses, organizations and individuals. Matching funds cannot come from other grant funds, foundation gifts or in-kind donations. To date, Seeds of Learning has raised only $10,000.

“We didn’t realize it was a matching grant until six months after it was awarded,” said Lynne Bridges, executive director for Seeds of Learning. The organization has had to jumpstart their capital campaign and put it on a fast track for completion. The matching funds must be in the bank by the end of January 2005.

Low-income children on waiting list

Bridges and Susan Thorpe designed the new building with Santa Fe architect Elbert Moore. It will cost nearly $600,000 to build. The Town of Pagosa Springs donated the land, at Seventh and Apache Streets. Childcare capacity in the new building will immediately go from the current 20-student limit to 30 students.

The ten additional students will come from the 26 at-risk, low-income families currently on the preschool waiting list. Seeds of Learning, works with Social Services who screens and determines eligibility and appropriate parental fees for ten children currently enrolled at the school. With a new building, they will be able to accommodate twenty preschoolers. Those fees range from $6 to $90 a month depending upon income and the number of dependents in a family. Regular daily rates are $23 for preschool and $24 for toddler care.

“This is an important step for us in order to get our NAEYC [National Association for the Education of Young Children] accreditation,” Bridges said. “We have the program, the staff and the administration requirements already met, but we can’t be accredited until we have a new building.”

For almost 80 years, the mission of the NAEYC has been to promote excellence in early childhood education and to raise the quality of programs for all children from birth through age eight. A major part of NAEYC’s efforts to improve early childhood education is through different systems of accreditation for programs that are committed to meeting national standards of quality. Currently there are more than 9,000 NAEYC-accredited programs, serving more than 800,000 children and their families. Since the system began in 1985, NAEYC accreditation has provided a powerful tool through which early childhood professionals, families, and others concerned about the quality of early childhood education can evaluate programs, compare them with professional standards, strengthen programs, and commit to ongoing evaluation and improvement.

The only NAEYC accredited childcare programs within a 100-mile radius of Pagosa Springs are the Head Start Programs in El Rito and Tierra Amarilla, New Mexico.

A new facility will allow Seeds of Learning to raise the bar on their already high quality program. The new 900 square foot preschool classroom will have a woodworking station and additional centers. Two multipurpose rooms, each larger than 500 square feet, will provide room for tumbling, napping and indoor activities during inclement weather. The new facility will have office space, a staff lounge, kitchen, conference room and plenty of storage.

When they move into the new location, Seeds of Learning hopes to offer an after school program which will qualify them to become a family center. A family center offers services to the entire family, not just the children, including screening, tests, counseling and immunization clinics.

“A family center takes care of the entire family,” Bridges said. “All of this is in place; except our family counselor is not in-house. The only thing missing is the after school program.”

The Temple Hoyne Buelle Foundation and the Boettcher Foundation have already contacted Seeds of Learning and will provide additional grant money when they have raised 50% and 70% respectively, of the cost to build the new building. Meaning, if they can raise $300,000 the rest will most likely be provided by foundation funds.

According to Bridges, they have identified a couple of private donors locally who have guaranteed they will contribute by the middle of January, but have not said how much they can afford to give. Seeds of Learning will be making presentation to the Chamber of Commerce Board, the Kiwanis, and other local entities like the Board of Realtors and the Ministerial Alliance.

“We have a lot of things in the works and perhaps they may happen before Christmas,” Bridges said. “I think if we call them [The Daniels Fund] in the middle of January and ask for an extension, they might work with us, but we are hoping and praying we don’t have to do that.”

Seeds of Learning was established in 1998 by Teddy Finney, Terry Alley and Erlinda Gonzalez as a childcare center for infants of unwed mothers. Originally housed at the Methodist Church, the program gradually grew and they moved into their current location on San Juan Street in 1999. Today, Seeds of Learning has ten toddlers and ten preschoolers enrolled in their program. They employ six early childhood teachers and are open Monday to Friday from 7:30 a.m. until 5:15 p.m.
Contact Lynn Bridges, Executive Director at 264-5513
or email seedsoflearning@msn.com.

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