For Hometown News
MARTIN COUNTY -
Gertrude Walden Childcare Center, a United Way-funded agency in East Stuart, has had a waiting list for enrollment for the past five years, but not this school year, thanks to a one-time grant of $17,000 from the United Way of Martin County Foundation.
"Investing in affordable, quality child-care services such as those provided by the Gertrude Walden Childcare Center is an important stepping stone for achieving success in school and in life," said Jim Vojcsik, executive director for United Way of Martin County. "We lift our community when everyone has the opportunity to reach their fullest potential."
The grant allows the childcare center to serve 40 more children, a 30 percent increase in enrollment, raising its capacity to 138 children ages 14 months old to 4 years old.
"This is the first time in our 40-year history we started the school year with an enrollment of more than 100 students," said Thelma Washington, executive director at Gertrude Walden Childcare Center.
"Our waiting list had grown to 40 children and it was getting to the point where parents were anxiously awaiting for the termination or removal of students just so that their children could get in."
Ms. Washington recognized the dire need for more classrooms, and she knew that securing the funding for a capital expense such as a building was a major obstacle given the down economy. But to her surprise, the timing was impeccable.
As it turned out, the Martin County School District no longer had any use for one of its adult education portable classrooms in East Stuart; however, it had to be completely retrofitted before Gertrude Walden Childcare Center could serve the 40 extra children all eager to start their education.
The United Way of Martin County Foundation board of directors saw the new addition as the perfect opportunity to help both present and future generations of children in East Stuart, many of which are economically disadvantaged, get a much-needed head start with their education.
The grant was used for renovations required to convert the portable into two voluntary prekindergarten education classrooms that were completed at a fraction of the cost with help from Habitat for Humanity of Martin County, also a United Way affiliated agency.
United Way of Martin County Foundation board members and United Way of Martin County staff recently joined the Gertrude Walden Childcare Center board of directors and staff during a special dedication ceremony at the new classroom, aptly named The Washington Center for Excellence at Gertrude Walden Childcare Center.
For more information, visit LIVEUNITEDmc.org.