By Barbara Norrie
ELLSWORTH — Trenton-based Tiny Tikes daycare has raised and donated $10,020 to the Families First Community Center.
The licensed daycare and preschool, as part of the curriculum, teaches children of all age groups values such charity and community service. Families First was chosen to receive the donation because of the positive impact the program will have on children. Betsey Grant, a representative of Tiny Tikes, said, “We try to teach the children to care about their community.”
With the support of community partners and donations such as that of Tiny Tikes, Families First has raised over 90 percent of the first phase of building funds for the addition and renovations to an existing structure on North Street in Ellsworth. Families First is now roughly $20,000 away from the total goal of $764,136. The community center plans to open in May. Once completed, the house will have six units to assist homeless families with long-term transitional housing, in addition to an array of support services. The frame of the addition, which is currently under construction, along with space for the in-house licensed “Montessori-inspired” daycare center, is being constructed by Toddy Pond Builders. The remaining construction will be done by a combination of other licensed contractors and volunteers.
In Phase Two of the project, the Board of Directors will use an estimated $113,000 for program development, hiring and training staff, establishing community outreach and selecting suitable families. They will be looking to add to their team two case managers — one for residents, another for outreach clients, in addition to an administrative assistant and “house parent,” who will stay on the premises providing overnight support for the residents.
Families First’s mission is to “break the cycle of homelessness by equipping families with minor children with the skills they need to gain self-sufficiency.” Phase Three of the plan is opening and commencing operations. Services will be available for homeless families with children that apply for qualification through the Ellsworth Housing Authority. Applicants undergo an interview process and are chosen based on a family’s needs. The program will require that participants dedicate 40 hours per week working toward a goal developed in a personalized “life plan” while residing at the facility. On-site child care will be available as a resource, as well as a number of support services such as case management, mentors, life skills classes and a 12-month support program after discharge.
“We could not do this without the support of the community, individuals, businesses and other nonprofits. Working together, we will provide support and stability to those in need, breaking the cycle of generational poverty. Creating the opportunity for a brighter future, especially for the children … that’s what we are working for,” said Terri Ouellette, Families First Board president.
Individuals interested in donating or volunteering can visit familiesfirstellsworth.org for information.