(This story also appeared on partner site West Seattle Blog)
(Above, from left: Bahini Buvaneswaran, Liliana Gaxiola-Cuerpo, Elsa Benavides, Nancy Woodland, Shariffa Sabrie, Christina Monteith, Mai-Chi Kelly, Heidi Walker, Barbara Harris-Bojang)
A lot of clowning around Thursday at the Educare Early Learning Center in Greenbridge. They were participating in Red Nose Day, which raises awareness and money to help little kids. “A few years ago, my brother walked into a restaurant to meet me with a big red nose on his face. I burst out laughing and then went in for a hug,” recounts one of the participants, West Seattleite Nancy Woodland, executive director of Learning Communities Foundation. On behalf of Educare Seattle, she picks up the story from there:
The Red Noses are eye-catching, goofy and fun. For Educare Seattle, they are a connection point to joy and a meaningful way to illuminate the importance of early learning, especially for families facing poverty.
More than 110 children enter Educare Seattle each day to engage in learning through child-care and preschool programs designed to ensure the littlest among us have access to high quality learning with a “whole family” approach. Children are greeted by teachers who look like them, honor their stories and celebrate their traditions. Parents and caregivers are recognized as their children’s first and most important teachers and have access to family support services and leadership opportunities in equal proportion.
“Partnering with a parent for resume’ support, basic needs assistance like diapers or gas funds or to gather their input for a staff hire is an integral part of our program design. It’s not an add-on or an extra because nothing is more important than centering the child and recognizing that the grown-ups surrounding them, each of them, is a part of that child’s story,” says Mai-Chi Kelly, Family Advocate. “Here, parents have power and voice and always have.”
Programs like these benefit from Comic Relief’s annual Red Nose Day campaign, now in its ninth year, raising life-changing funds to help end the cycle of poverty and ensure children are safe, healthy, educated and empowered across the U.S. and around the world. The campaign’s iconic Red Noses, symbolizing hope and positive change, are on sale nationwide at longstanding Red Nose Day partner Walgreens.
Please consider stopping by Walgreens to pick up a Red Nose. Please donate directly to Comic Relief here, where funds will be collected nationally and distributed through partners or, as Educare Seattle’s story is being gathered to be shared over the coming year, invest in local early learners at Educare Seattle here.
(A grant from a previous Comic Relief Red Nose Day funded playground improvement at Educare Seattle so more STEM-based lessons can occur outside, rain or shine. The project was completed Thursday.)
Educare Seattle is an innovative early learning center in White Center. Families meeting “income and circumstance” criteria receive childcare and attend preschool in a setting built on four pillars that combine to lead to a racially just and humanizing learning system.
Now in its fourteenth year, the Educare building at 625 SW 100th holds Educare, Heritage Head Start and Seattle Preschool Programs. The White Center Community Development Association holds its Kaleidoscope Play and Learn programs there weekly.
Relaunching now that doors can be open again, staffing levels are starting to even out and new faces with big ideas are reconnecting to plan for the future.
Woodland adds, “Even with 13 years working at WestSide Baby, I didn’t realize there was a magical place several blocks away.” The WestSide Baby model focuses on provides basic needs for children without connecting 1:1 to the families and children. “Connecting with WestSide Baby’s new Executive Director, Michelle Hankinson, this week just drove home that White Center is home to incredible nonprofits and the pandemic sent many into crisis management mode. It’s time for us all to reconnect in service to children and families.”
Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to learn more about board leadership opportunities, event support, sponsorship opportunities, or even just to see the program for yourself. She adds, “As I checked in with my brother about the Red Nose memory, he said ‘I noticed it because it was goofy but I bought it because I saw it was connected to something good. The fact that it made folks laugh was an added bonus.’”