Grassroots effort in Homer launches early learning center
Homer has always been known as a tight, activist community and that reputation has been reinforced with the opening of the Kachemak Kids Early Learning Center, a cooperative child care and preschool program.
The center opened in 2007, just a year after members of the Child Advocacy Coalition of Homer (CACH) surveyed local parents about child care availability.
When the survey showed a significant need for more child care, the town responded. A diverse group of residents – including educators, business owners, child care providers, parents, and non-parents – worked with CACH to get the Kachemak Kids Early Learning Center off the ground.
“It was very grassroots,” said Lolita Brache, current board member and one of the founders of Kachemak Kids. “Community members and parents saw the need and got the center going.”
With a $5,000 donation from the Rural Child Care Initiative in Juneau, the board selected a curriculum and began gathering materials and supplies for the center. With the help of local businesses and community volunteers, Kachemak Kids opened its doors in August of 2007.
Kachemak struggles to balance affordable tuition for parents and wages for child care providers. The center hopes eventually to attract enough in grants and donations to supplement tuition, provide scholarships for families who do not qualify for child care assistance, and offer employee benefits, Brache said.
One of the ways Kachemak Kids keeps costs down – and parental involvement up – is by requiring parents to volunteer at least six hours a month. The volunteer hours can be in the classroom or by helping in other areas, such as managing the website, writing the newsletter, or even doing laundry.
The local business community has been very supportive with financial and in-kind contributions, according to Jenny Martin, board member and treasurer for Kachemak Kids. “It benefits the business community because their employees can come to work knowing their kids are in a safe learning environment,” she said. Kachemak Kids is also supported by contributions from BP Alaska, the Fred Meyer Foundation, and the Homer News.
To learn more about Kachemak kids visit http://kachemakkids.com/