By Shannon Hall
One of the most fulfilling parts of my job is visiting the programs we support with grant funding. I recently had the opportunity to visit two Healthy Beginnings, Active Futures grant recipients.
The Healthy Beginnings, Active Futures grant is for Colorado-based nonprofit and for profit early childhood education programs, including family child care, that serve children younger than age five and need improvements to their outdoor facilities. Funds can be used to make improvements to playgrounds and outdoor play spaces, to redesign and replace expensive playground surfacing and equipment, build new, high-quality outdoor environments, and to invest in health and safety-related improvements to existing outdoor play spaces.
The first program I visited was Creede Early Learning Center in Creede, located in Mineral County. Being a Colorado native, you would think that I would have heard of this city before, but until now, I had not. I was pleasantly surprised by the town and especially by the program. Creede Early Learning Center is the only licensed center in Mineral County and is led by Erin Tiley, the Executive Director. The program has served the community for 20 years and is set in a cute house, mostly by itself, with a river and an amazing mountain backdrop. The program has a maximum capacity of 35 and serves children ages 12 months to 12 years.
During this visit, we explored the playground and heard Erin’s vision for the many updates she will make with the funding from the Healthy Beginnings, Active Futures grant. She has amazing passion for our field and is inspired to create a wonderful and safe outdoor learning environment for the children in her program. She walked me through the changes that have already been made in the seven years since she joined the team and explained her vision going forward. She is so excited to improve the quality of her space to meet the needs of the children and offer a safe, fun environment. As I was leaving, I received a big hug from Erin and her sincere thanks.
The next program I visited was Eagle View Learning Center located in Grand Junction in Mesa County. Here, I was greeted by Julie Dorsey, Owner and Director. Eagle View Learning Center serves children ages birth to 12 years, has a maximum capacity of 57 children, and is currently serving many children from at-risk families in the community. Julie has been in the field for more than 20 years and successfully runs Eagle View Learning Center in addition to a large family child care home with her husband called Angels Among Us.
Meeting with Julie, I could see her passion for our field, the teachers she employs, and especially the children she serves. Because she wanted to reach more children, in 2015 she worked hard to secure a space she could use as an early childhood center. This allowed her to offer quality care to more children in Mesa County. While I was speaking with her, she mentioned her worry that rural areas are often forgotten and that many people do not realize how important early childhood education is everywhere, especially in Colorado’s rural areas. She expressed her extreme gratitude for the Healthy Beginnings, Active Futures grant, and as I toured her playground with her it was exciting to hear her many ideas.
It was an overwhelming experience to witness the amazing impact this grant will have on both programs and the children they serve. To be a part of that is truly an amazing feeling. I can’t wait to see what they will accomplish in the next year and I look forward to my next visit.
I encourage all licensed, Colorado-based programs that need outdoor facility improvements to consider this grant opportunity. We frequently offer technical assistance webinars about the grant application process and are ready to answer any questions you may have.