Little Feet back on solid footing? |

Little Feet back on solid footing?

Naomi Havlen

Parent volunteers with children in Little Feet Day Care are working toward a fund-raising goal of $25,000 to keep the center open and establish their own nonprofit status.

The center, meanwhile, hopes to find funds that slipped through the cracks months ago and almost led to the center’s closure. With a large portion of Little Feet’s debt forgiven by creditors, parents and staff are attempting to raise $25,000 to pay back the remaining debt and give themselves a small financial cushion.

In February the center’s board of directors considered closing the daycare center permanently because it was $50,000 in debt. Daycare, especially infant care, is extremely costly because of the high number of teachers required by the state for licensed facilities.

Little Feet had several options: either shutting down completely, being taken over by another childcare provider, establishing a for-profit business or creating a new nonprofit to run the existing program.

The loss of a daycare center in the upper Roaring Fork Valley would have been a tremendous blow to families who need to have both parents working full time to afford the high cost of living.

At Little Feet, parents stepped forward to get involved.

Brenda Davis, chair of a new operations committee, said around 20 parents have been attending weekly meetings of her own committee, as well as financial, communication and fund-raising committees.

Fund raising is slow but steady, and new co-board president Ashley Richardson said the parents are brainstorming how to get the community’s support.

The parents raised $3,100 by selling tickets for the Aspen Rotary Club’s Red Ball Express race at Buttermilk.

Davis said one of the biggest portions of money raised has actually come from the parents themselves. Many families who had let their childcare bills slide began to pay their bills once they heard the center was in trouble.

The center is planning a 5-kilometer race for early June as a major fund-raiser. Richardson said Little Feet has already received the city’s permission for the route to follow the same path that the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation annual footrace uses through the West End.

The new race’s working title is a sort of double entendre that echoes what some of these parents were saying just two months ago: “Little Feet don’t fail me now.”

Nonprofit daycare centers in the valley receive funds from a city department known as Kids First, which is funded by an Aspen sales tax. Kids First facilitated the first meeting Little Feet had with parents to explore different options, but has since let parents and staff take over.

“We have purposely stepped back, because we were told that after that first meeting the parents would work things out,” said Shirley Ritter, director of Kids First. “Our board said it would be great if a new group of parents takes over, and we’d continue to support them and give them funding.”

Richardson said she’s been impressed with the parents who have stepped forward to put on potluck dinners and rolled up their sleeves to clean toys, saving the center a little money.

“We are looking for anybody in the community who might want to join the board,” said Jeanette “Netty” Hayworth, Little Feet director. “We are all working toward the goal of fund raising, and nobody’s let up so far. Our parents have really pulled through.”

And the parents aren’t under the illusion that their fund-raising efforts are temporary – Richardson said the group is well aware that the fund raising must continue every year.

“I think we’ve made it abundantly clear that we might not need to raise $25,000 every year, but that some sort of fund raising has to continue every year,” she said.

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