Foundation remains committed to Elk River

by Jim Boyle

In 2003 the six Initiative Foundations around the state and the McKnight Foundation launched the Minnesota Early Childhood Initiative.

“We recognize unique challenges and opportunities being on the edge of the metropolitan area,” Kathy Gaalswyk said at Wednesday’s Early Childhood Summit. “We remain committed to working with you.”

There are 86 citizen-based coalitions that touch more than 200 communities.

“This is a movement in our state,” Gaalswyk said. “People in other states watch what’s going on in Minnesota, and they are pretty impressed.”

Gaalswyk has been impressed with the work going on in Elk River.  She congratulated the group for its work in training more than 100 child-care providers and professionals in school readiness sessions and a series called Ready to Read and Write.

She also noted:

•the efforts to focus on resources, like the  2-1-1 system for parents and caregivers “so they’re not in isolation.”

•the emphasis on literacy by being chosen by the Minnesota Children’s Museum to host Storyland: A Trip Through Childhood Favorites.” More than 2,300 parents and young kids went through that program.

•family-centered activities have included a Family Fun Night with an emphasis on children’s mental health that attracted 600 people last year. Another is planned for May 5.

There’s so much to be done, Gaalswyk said.

“I want to challenge each of you,” she said. “Some of you are choir members, if you will.  You know and understand this issue and you’re working in it every day.

“I also know we have other community leaders, volunteers, business people that came out to find out a little more about what’s going on. No matter what hat you’re wearing, I encourage each of you to think about one thing you could do differently to invest quality care and early education.”

The Minnesota Early Childhood Initiative has several guiding principals, including:

•to help every child you need to reach every child. That means working with providers, educators and early childhood folks and the usual suspects like the business community, the faith community and others.

“Parents and caretakers have a really hard job,” Gaalswyk said. “They need support. Networks. Resources. We need to be mindful of how we pull that together. That’s why collaboration is essential — not only within  the community but all around the state.”