By Jan Santopietro
Special to The SUN
The Archuleta County Education Center (ACEC) is pleased to announce that the trustees of the Ballantine Family Fund have approved a grant request in the amount of $2,000 to be used as start-up costs for Wings Early Childhood Center.
The Ballantine Family Fund was established in 1957 by Morley C. Ballantine and Arthur A. Ballantine Jr. for the purpose of providing financial assistance to nonprofit causes that benefit the human condition and enhancing the quality of life in southwest Colorado.
Briggen Wrinkle, grants manager for the Ballantine Family Fund, noted the following in the grant acceptance letter: “The trustees believe that your program is providing a vital component to creating a healthy and vibrant community.”
The early childhood project began more than three years ago when the Pagosa Springs Town Council and Archuleta County Board of County Commissioners appointed a group of volunteers (Early Care and Education Work Group) to provide recommendations for ways to expand early childhood programs in Archuleta County — they realized the lack of services was adversely affecting the local economy. Parents could not go to work if they could not find safe, secure care and education programs for their young children.
The work group spent the first year researching availability and what was needed in our community. The group found that creation of 280 more slots was necessary in order to meet the need for early childhood care and education programs in our community (see the full report presented to the town and county at www.wingsearlychildhood.org).
The focus for the second and third year was implementation, but how could the ACEC expand programs without adequate space? All the licensed homes and centers were full and had long waiting lists. It was obvious that a new center had to be built. Fast forward to today — a generous local couple purchased the former Greenhouse Restaurant and is providing the building rent-free to the ACEC. In turn, the ACEC secured 100 percent of the funding necessary for the renovation, which is expected to be completed this month.
To that end, Wings Early Childhood Center is targeted to open in the fall of 2019 for 40 toddlers (ages 1 up to 3 years) and preschoolers (ages 3 to 5 years). The Fund Development Committee is working closely with the Start-Up Committee in developing budgets and seeking appropriate funding sources for additional start-up costs. It’s amazing how much it costs to provide high-quality education for a young child — close to $12,000 per year.
Visit www.wingsearlychildhood.org for the latest information about Wings as we soar to new heights in 2019.
By Jan Santopietro