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Early Connections Learning Center has supported Springs families for 121 years and counting 

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click to enlarge Early Connections' services impact 700 local children every day. - COURTESY EARLY CONNECTIONS LEARNING CENTER
  • Courtesy Early Connections Learning Center
  • Early Connections' services impact 700 local children every day.

At the end of the 19th century, Colorado Springs held a national reputation as a place of recovery for those suffering from tuberculosis. Over a third of the city's residents had moved to the Springs seeking treatment. Many brought families, but it's difficult to recover from tuberculosis and care for a child.

In 1897, local philanthropist Alice Bemis Taylor and 13 other local women formed the Colorado Springs Day Nursery Association to run a social welfare residential and day facility that provided quality child care for working women and low-income families. Today, the organization operates as Early Connections Learning Centers and serves kids from 6 weeks to 14 years old through five early-education centers offering high-quality infant, toddler, preschool and school-age care in locations around Colorado Springs.

"We provide full-day, full-year services to working and student families in multiple locations here in Colorado Springs," says Diane Price, the charity's president and CEO.

Price, who has been CEO for 30 years, has a bachelor's degree in early childhood education from Western Illinois University. The organization requires anyone who works on its programming to have a background in early childhood care and education. Mostly, the organization focuses on established best practices, encompassing education, nutrition and behavioral health as well as school readiness.

"When you take a comprehensive approach to early care and education, you're really looking at the child and the family and joining with the family to meet their needs," says Price. "We work closely with families to empower them to be strong advocates for their children, not only in these very first years, but when they enter school."

Beyond managing the nonprofit's core services, staff also offer early education and business training, personalized coaching and other support to 38 privately owned home-based early-education centers and provide staffing and support for Court Care for the Pikes Peak Region (also a 2018 Give! Campaign participant). Court Care offers free literacy-based drop-in care for kids whose parents or guardians need to be in court in the Pikes Peak region.

"It's a very unique partnership that allows them to not have to have any staff," says Price. "We, in turn, staff them, and all the money they raise goes directly to program services. It's a very cost-efficient way to target high-need families that are involved in the court system."

The student and working families who most need the Learning Centers' services are often lower income, and child care isn't cheap. The organization offers services on an income-based sliding scale, subsidizing lower-income families' fees. The nonprofit hopes Give! donors will help close the gap between the cost of high-quality early education and what parents can afford to pay.

"Our funding comes from partnerships, program fees and fundraising to include grants, special events, Pikes Peak United Way and individual donations," says Liz Denson, the nonprofit's vice president of community engagement. "Without fundraising and the support from individual donors, we would not be able to impact 700 local children every day."

They're also hoping Give! will raise their profile in the community.

"You're not aware of an organization like ours unless you're a parent and you're looking for child care at that moment," Denson says. But when Early Connections participated in Give! in 2017, they found a new donor base — 80 percent of their 2017 donors had never given to the organization before.

"Give has been a great opportunity for us to reach out to people who maybe aren't aware of our organization."

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