January, February, and March encapsulate the story of two different quarters. It was the start of a great year in the making - our classrooms were full of life, love, and learning. Strong convergence of plans and partnerships promised expanding and emerging opportunities to add to the richness of daily experience for our children. During those months we were open 51 days, with 269 children served. 169 of those children attended at least three days per week, and it is that group of students from which we derive our shared statistics.
While our numbers were good, it is the richness of experiences in the day-to-day operations that pull everything together and these numbers above (and others) into an upward trajectory of a child’s development. You would love the 5-6 year olds learning Spanish, watching our dedicated soccer team and volunteers practicing outside in the cold, and the vision and work of our Young Entrepreneurs. Our journalism club was producing CAC News and Events, and our gardens being were prepped for Spring planting. We now have an official orchard! In Center Kids (5-6 years old), we launched a total immersion-learning model that was already making significant impact in every area of a child’s development process. Nine adult students completed secondary education, bringing our graduate total to 30 by the end of February.
Then, by the second week of March, it was obvious things were quickly going to change. Our school district closed to thwart the spread of the outbreak and CAC quickly followed. The official “Shelter in Place” mandate came a few days later, and for the first time in thirty-two years we could not open our doors for children and adults in our community. Our pivot in service delivery was dramatic. We immediately began to serve daily breakfast and lunches from our front doors. The cafeteria became the staging area for collecting household goods, and preparing “care packages” of nonfood items: toilet paper, cleaning supplies, personal hygiene, laundry and dishwashing soap, etc. Our staff facilitated online tutoring, assisted with technical connectivity for families, and made daily calls to check in on our Senior adults, parents, and others. Our language and entrepreneur classes continued online. The Adult Diploma Recovery program continued to be very robust during this time as well, and education staff assisted by tutoring adults in high school subjects. Other staff have continued to work in development processes, facility and grounds maintenance, and the delivery of laundry bags (for residential pick up) and family “care packages.” Our health care provider has continued to provide daily wellness checks on those most vulnerable.
As this crisis continues, we are using this time for strategic planning, revitalizing development plans, further staff training, curriculum development, and preparations for a mid-July reopening based on a variety of possible scenarios and timelines. Reopening plans predominately focus on small, age level groups that will begin to rebuild educational momentum lost, and engage children with physical activity, creative arts, and STEM. There is much work to be done to “tool up” before reopening - we must meet all of the required guidelines to ensure the safety of all. We will keep this schedule until August 17, which is tentatively the first day of the fall school semester. Throughout summer, we will continue to be a site for Grab and Go breakfast and lunches, and will make further adaptations based on emerging dynamics.
This crisis is not over, nor is it resolved. That is not what I want to say, not is it what I want you to hear. Life is disrupted for those who have achieved a normalcy of routine and being. For those who were struggling to create such a life, with inch-by-inch strides – this is far more than a disruption. This pandemic, and now the protests, expose the myth that justice and equality is available for all. We cannot be blind to the inequality, inequity, and injustice that shouts from the housetops in our community. After COVID-19 is a memory, and protests end, there will still be communities where living wage employment and productivity is another town over. These communities will continue to be grossly underserved in educational opportunity, access to health care, affordable housing, and healthy food. Related ills – toxic stress, volatile relationships, homelessness, higher crime – will continue to thwart the potential and wellbeing of millions of Americans. It is my prayer that our nation and our world will understand this to be a wakeup call. It is my prayer that we will come together, determined to change, with new visions of caring for the world God created, and for all the people of this planet. Our communities of faith – we should be leading the way, and every human has a moral obligation to protect the most vulnerable, no matter how inconvenient it is for us to do.
If you pray, keep praying. We believe God wants to do even bigger things here. Please keep walking with us. What you do here matters to an entire community. Remember us in your circles. During the first week of August we will host our 31st annual “back to school” event. School supplies and uniforms will be needed more than ever. We are still collecting and distributing non-food items – toilet paper, hygiene products, cleaning supplies. “Tooling up” for programming includes our need for several hundred washable and disposable masks. We could use the help of mowing crews throughout the summer. There are always ways to be involved!
Thank you for standing with us during this time, and locking your arms with ours to keep moving forward. I am grateful to you for listening to the call of your heart.