Community foundation seeks early education donations | AspenTimes.com
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Community foundation seeks early education donations

Eben Harrell

Ellen Freedman is concerned about early childhood education.Eight months pregnant, Freedman knows she will soon pay high fees – as much as $50 a day – to send her child to preschool. She also knows the fees don’t nearly cover the expense of early education, leaving nonprofit preschools scrambling for funds.Yet Freedman is unlike the host of mothers in the valley concerned about preschool education. As executive director of the Aspen Valley Community Foundation, she is in a position to improve the situation.Under Freedman’s guidance, the foundation, an Aspen-based grant-giving organization for nonprofits, has set up a five-year program to support preschools in the valley. The Early Childhood Education Initiative has pledged to raise $1.25 million to support preschool education. Founded before Freedman’s pregnancy, the program is nonetheless directed to help mothers like her.”Early education is so important; studies show it can be as influential as college education. We want to make sure people can make informed decisions,” Freedman said.The initiative has partnered with Kids First, a city of Aspen support program for early education. Through the initiative’s funding, Kids First has set up an office in Glenwood Springs to help advise downvalley parents on preschool choices.The initiative also supports individual facilities. Nonprofit preschools from Aspen to Glenwood Springs are eligible to apply for financial help. This year, nine preschools received grants from the initiative to help bolster operations.The Early Childhood Center in Woody Creek, for example, received $15,000 earlier this year. Center director Linda Campbell said the money allowed the school to set up a scholarship fund for low-income families.”This allowed us to bring some Latino students into our class. One of our hopes is to help our children become bilingual. Everyone gained from their presence this year,” Campbell said.Freedman said fund raising for the initiative has been slow, falling roughly $50,000 short of the target last year. “The initiative isn’t sexy [to donors] like arts programs or capital projects where naming opportunities are available,” Freedman said. “But early education is so important to our community as a whole. We know there are people out there that care about this issue.”The Aspen Valley Community Foundation is still accepting donations for the Early Childhood Education Initiative. The foundation can be reached at 925-7887.Eben Harrell’s e-mail address is eharrell@aspentimes.com


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