May 21, 2019

Bridgewater child care plan gains a key supporter

By January, if all goes according to schedule, the sounds of little voices will fill the former Bridgewater Village School again.

Let’s Grow Kids, a Burlington-based nonprofit agency promoting access to high-quality child care in Vermont, has awarded the Bridgewater Area Community Foundation a $23,100 grant to support the creation of a child care program.

The grant, awarded last month through the agency’s Make Way for Kids program, will help the foundation renovate and outfit classroom space and refit the playground to be developmentally appropriate for young children. One of 17 grant recipients around the state, the Bridgewater group is also receiving technical assistance in getting its child care program off the ground.

“We are so very grateful to have received this very generous startup grant,” Bridgewater Area Community Foundation board member Joni Kennedy wrote in an email message. “One of the things that makes this grant so very unique is the incredible amount of support, mentoring and resources Make Way For Kids provides.”

Last October, the newly formed Bridgewater Area Community Foundation entered a five-year agreement with the town to lease the former Bridgewater Village School for a dollar a year. The building housed an elementary school until 2015, when voters agreed to combine elementary schools with Pomfret. The group plans to convert the building into a community center, eventually adding a preschool and after-school programming.

“This is just the first phase of their vision,” said Sharron Harrington, a senior program manager for Let’s Grow Kids.

Harrington said the Bridgewater program stood out to Let’s Grow Kids in part because of its work in pulling together partnerships among different stakeholders, including government agencies, nonprofits, businesses, health care professionals and schools.

“We were really prioritizing collaboration because we know it’s going to take everyone coming to the table to solve this child care crisis,” Harrington said. “This program is a great example. They’ve recognized a great need and they’re pooling their resources.”

Let’s Grow Kids also chose the Bridgewater proposal, which will serve eight infants and six toddlers, because it represents a significant need. “Up until now, Bridgewater has been a child care desert,” Harrington said. “Having more quality child care will help the community attract new residents … and strengthen the local economy. Most importantly, the young people will have what they need to succeed in school and in life.”

In addition to serving Bridgewater families, the child care center will be open to families from surrounding communities, Kennedy said.

Getting a child care program off the ground can be challenging, Harrington said, particularly when it comes to meeting state codes and requirements. By using a community building that recently housed a school, the Bridgewater group has a head start on that work, she said.

Launched last year, the Make Way for Kids program has so far awarded $1.7 million in grants and technical assistance to existing and proposed child care programs around the state. It receives funding through the Vermont Community Foundation, as well as numerous other individual donors and foundations.

Bridgewater Area Community Foundation board members plan to open the child care program by January 2020.

Click here to read this story on the Valley News website.

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