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The Early Learning Coalition of Northwest Florida is helping toddlers get the education they deserve

Published: Sep. 20, 2021 at 7:35 PM CDT
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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - It’s coming up on the 3-year anniversary of Hurricane Michael and many families in our community are still on the road to recovery. It’s an especially bumpy ride for those with small children. But, The Early Learning Coalition of Northwest Florida is dedicated to helping in any way it can.

You learn something new every single day.

“I think a lot of people just assume that children are going to be ready to learn right when they get into kindergarten but that’s not necessarily the case,” The Early Learning Coalition of Northwest Florida Communication and Outreach Specialist Julie Weber said.

The Early Learning Coalition of Northwest Florida is determined to give our youngest learners the education they need before that first day of kindergarten.

Weber said they’re investing in children’s behavior, emotional and social development so they will be ready to be in that social setting. But doing that has been even more difficult since Hurricane Michael.

“It’s one thing for families going through this, businesses going through this, but for our youngest children, who really relied on that secure environment and especially learning environment, for them to miss out on that was really devastating to them,” Weber said.

The group is helping these kids recover from that devastation through a project called Operation Kaleidoscope.

“Really support the childcare providers in our area which ultimately is going to help the children and the families succeed,” Weber said.

Last October, Governor Ron Desantis stopped by The Early Learning Coalition of Northwest Florida to announce nearly $5 million in grant money would be going towards the group’s Operation Kaleidoscope initiative. Since then, the group has received an additional $2.6 million, for a total of $7.47 million to spend on rehabilitating child care providers in the area with renovation and repairs, Help Me Grow, provider recruitment, and mental health services.

“Their classrooms were decimated so they got all new rugs, all new furniture, all new tables, chairs. Same thing for outdoors. A lot of money is being spent on these incredible play structures these kids are going to get,” Weber said. “Again not only for their educational benefit but for just society in general. Getting parents back to work, getting them to be productive and just having that loving environment that they can flourish in.”

Weber said if they can get a secure environment and fill it with quality materials that they need to keep their childcare businesses running, then the children are going to benefit from it.

The Early Learning Coalition of Northwest Florida serves Bay, Calhoun, Franklin, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson, and Washington Counties.

For more information, you can go to their website at https://www.elcnwf.org/

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