Welcome to the online version of The Children’s Center Quarterly Newsletter!
Spacious New Classroom Dedicated to Judy Griffin
Judy Griffin was the center of attention on Friday, October 1, 2010, when she walked into the Children’s Center’s newly built classroom to see it filled with her friends and family. “Surprise!” the group called, followed by applause and laughter at Griffin’s reaction to the completely unexpected dedication event. For the past nine years, Griffin has volunteered on the Children’s Center’s Chili Chowder Challenge Committee and has grown this annual fundraiser into an event anticipated by the entire community each year.
Serving as the Committee Chair for the past six years, Griffin coordinates the friendly competition among local restaurants, a live and a silent auction, entertainment, and crafts for children at the Augusta Armory each March. Each year, the event raises more and more money for the children of all abilities and their families served by the Children’s Center. The 2010 Chili Chowder Challenge raised $28,000, which was then used to build an addition to the Children’s Center building.
The additional 396 square feet created a huge, brightly lit classroom and additional therapy space, allowing the Children’s Center to provide more occupational and physical therapy to children with special needs and increase its licensed capacity from 60 to 75 children. On the wall of the new addition hangs a plaque dedicating the room to Griffin for her “heartfelt commitment to children of Central Maine.” In addition to her role as the driving force behind the Chili Chowder Challenge, Griffin is a past Board member and former President of the Board of Directors of the Children’s Center.
In that role, she was an architect of the successful Capital Campaign that raised over $1.4 million from local donors for the renovation and expansion of the Center between 2001 and 2003. Griffin is a volunteer with Healthreach Hospice Volunteers of Kennebec Valley. She has shown that she is willing to give her time and share her heart with people in times of need.
She is active in her church. For many years, she was a Big Sister with Big Brothers Big Sisters. For these reasons and more, the huge classroom was filled tightly with Griffin’s loved ones. All thrilled to honor her contributions to our community.
Executive Director, Jonathan Leach, escorted her to the surprise. Fellow long-time Children’s Center supporter, Kaye Flanagan, spoke of Griffin’s commitment to children. Children’s Center Board President Warren Bartlett, and former Board President, Glenn Gagne, performed the official dedication of the new classroom to Griffin.
Representative Patsy Crocket and Mayor Roger Katz both gave testimony about the value of the Children’s Center to the Augusta community and Griffin’s strong role in supporting its mission. Executive Director, Jonathan Leach, spoke of Judy’s dedication to children and families in front of a room packed with her friends and family. Former Board President Glenn Gagne, and long-time supporter, Kaye Flanagan spoke later in the ceremony.
Aden started attending the Children’s Center when she was just a baby in the Seedlings classroom, which provides full-time child care for infants. Like a little seedling, she has grown and, as her mother Diane noticed recently, is truly beginning to blossom.
“My girl is just a different kid this week,” her mom exclaimed. “It’s been a fascinating change to observe. She is exhausted when she gets home, in a good way. It’s clear she has really been thinking and playing hard. She talks non-stop, and then she collapses. This is definitely a new behavior.”
Diane selected the Children’s Center as her daughter’s child care over others because of its playground, quality care, and education, and because it includes children with special needs. “I want Aden to be prepared to live in the world,” she says, “and disability is a part of life experience.”
In Growing Buds, Aden’s new classroom, she is engaged in creative play with her peers of all abilities. “Her play has changed!” Diane reports. “It’s much more imaginative, almost exclusively so, and she uses phrases and concepts that can only have come from playing with other kids. It is a beautiful thing to see.”
There are current openings for full-time child care in the Seedlings classroom where Aden began. See our baby room!
The Grandest Parents of All
Grandparents who are raising their grandchildren and other non-traditional families face unique challenges. The Grandest Parents of All, a Children’s Center program of support and education offered in collaboration with Southern Kennebec Child Development Corporation and Kennebec Valley Community Action Program, will continue to serve these wonderful families for a second year thanks to the support from the Brookdale Foundation, the Maine Children’s Trust, and private donors. Thank you!
I was on the big yellow school bus yesterday. I think it was the first time since my last high school track meet. The seats have gotten a lot smaller and closer together than I remember. The occasion was the national recognition of “Step Up for Kids.” Part of the day was a bus tour for elected officials and candidates to local early childhood programs, including public pre-kindergarten, in-home, and center-based childcare, and the Children’s Center for Early Intervention.
It was great to see so many places that do such good work, and it was gratifying to meet professionals that take pride in their work. I am glad that the folks that make decisions about these services got to see them firsthand. The downside was that there weren’t many of them there.
Maybe the timing wasn’t the best, as candidates are out campaigning, and I hope voters turn out to support people who put kids first. People can’t do the right thing unless they get elected. We do have staunch defenders and supporters out there. Representatives Flood, Strang-Burgess, Berry, and others impressed me with their commitment and understanding of the issues. Sometimes it felt like preaching to the choir, as it was clear that kids already have their support.
The challenge is how we reach out to and engage others and help them understand and appreciate the value of effective early intervention. At the end of the day, First Lady Karen Baldacci received well-deserved accolades for her efforts. Rep. Berry’s comments at that ceremony still resonate with me: “Today we saw the future.” I hope you will join me in asking your elected officials to try to think past a two-year budget cycle and support services that will strengthen our communities for years.
The Second Annual Spaghetti Dinner took place at the Manchester Lions Club on Wednesday, September 15, 2010. Families, staff, and supporters enjoyed the delicious food donated by Hannaford and Target and prepared by our very own therapists. The children danced to Terrie Kee, and Friends and families joined together to form friendships to last the whole school year.
The following Saturday, The First Annual Children’s Center Garage Sale was blessed with beautiful weather. Items given by families and staff were sold for donations to the Center. Combined, these two events raised more than $1,000 for field trips and family fun nights throughout the coming school year.
The highlight of the garage sale was a dunk tank that our bravest staff sat in and challenged the crowd to test their pitching skills. The dunk tank was the reward for another successful United Way campaign at the Children’s Center. All of the staff made contributions to our local United Way agencies, and our combined pledge was the largest ever.
Nutrition & Physical Activity
Supporting healthy habits among our children, families, and staff is the charge of the Children’s Center’s Wellness Committee. Thanks to the support of Healthy Communities of the Captial Area, the Center has recently been awarded two wellness grants. With one grant, we purchased an additional share of community-supported agriculture at Goranson Farms. Each week, we bring two children to the farm to help us select locally-grown organic produce to incorporate into our menu. This way, the children learn where their food comes from and develop healthy eating habits.
Additionally, the Children’s Center has been selected to participate in the Nutrition and Physical Activity Self-Assessment for Child Cares program, a state-wide initiative among Healthy Maine Partnerships. This program will give the Center even more support in creating the healthiest environment possible for the young children of all abilities in our care.
Current Board Members:
President ~ Warren Bartlett
Vice President ~ Dana Hamilton
Treasurer ~ Rep. Patsy Garside Crockett
Secretary ~ Kimberly MacKenzie
Christine Bartlett, Elisa Paylor, Glenn Gagne, Cristina Evers, Stephanie McGary, Paige Cummings