Fairbanks has lots of resources for families. The challenge has been figuring out what and where they are. That’s all changed with the unveiling of FairbanksFamilies.org, a new website that clearly lays out all the resources and activities that families with young children might need.
The formal launch this month of FairbanksFamilies.org comes thanks to a collaboration between the Fairbanks North Star Borough Early Childhood Development Commission (ECDC) and Best Beginnings.
The ECDC wanted a single source of current information on resources for young families related to parenting, health, early learning, recreation, events, and activities. In 2008, Best Beginnings came to them with financial support and technical assistance. The website took two years to develop.
Sally Levengood, commissioner on the ECDC, which oversees the Fairbanks Early Childhood Partnership, has worked with the website project from the beginning.
“I was amazed we were able to pull it together,” Levengood laughs. “It took a lot of people with different fields of expertise. It’s a very collaborative effort – it had to be. In addition to providing a lot of good information for families, it has also helped to build the early childhood community. It’s been a good avenue for us to work more closely together, to collaborate.”
Getting a website up doesn’t mean its work is done.
“One of the challenges is the time and energy it takes to continually improve it,” ECDC administrator Cheryl Keepers said. “You spend all this time and energy getting it up but you have to keep at it. Since the soft launch in May, we’ve had good and constructive feedback about it. From what we hear, people love it. But it has to stay current to be of value. And keeping current takes somebody’s time and money.”
Best Beginnings paid for the website development and start-up through 2010. An additional grant through the Best Beginnings early childhood partnership is supporting publicity – a TV spot – and upgrades to the website.
The next step, Keepers said, is to build financial support within Fairbanks to sustain it. “We’re testing whether we can pay for the website through local sponsorships. We think we can do it – we have lined up some local sponsors – but it’s still early. The idea, of course, is that the community will see the value of maintaining the website, view it as a good opportunity for advertising their business or organization, and support it. We’re optimistic.”