The South Bend Early Learning Center, which provides Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) and child care services, recently received an award from their community for the work, service, and support they provided throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. South Bend's "Road 2 Resiliency" – a prevention coalition working to build healthy, resilient communities – honored South Bend Early Learning Center with the June Resiliency Rockstar Award.
South Bend Early Learning Center Director Amy Nelson said the small but mighty crew of 15 women are some of the most hardworking and dedicated people she has ever had the pleasure of being around.
"This truly is the team. We are down 6.5 staff from last year – two of which, both lead teachers, resigned this year, mid-year. We've faced a pandemic, enrollment challenges, minimal access to substitutes, multiple shifts, and constant change, and we continue to remain standing to do the hard work," Nelson said. "To say it has been a challenging year would be an egregious understatement, but we are making it."
And the families feel it. As one parent said, “From the moment we decided to enroll our son in their program more than two years ago, they have shown our family nothing by kindness and grace. Equally as important, they showed our family compassion, flexibility, and understanding as we fought for two years to keep our family whole. Still to this day, they continue to show the same amount of compassion and kindness, fueled with love and more patience than I will ever possess, to ensure our son always feels loved, understood, heard, and valued. They took a little boy who had been through so much, and broke down the walls that allowed his bubbly, beautiful spirit to shine through.”
Throughout the pandemic, South Bend Early Learning Center teaching staff learned to navigate technology, providing educational opportunities and connection through Google Classroom, Zoom meetings, and classroom Facebook pages, as well as teaching in person at least two and up to four days per week since October. Education staff continue to use their best efforts to engage with families through ongoing educational connection and fun. Staff delivered weekly paper packets and additional educational supplies as needed. The kitchen assistant and home visitors delivered upwards of 1,000 meals per month and made important daily connections, reducing isolation and stress for families.
Partners in the K-12 system also noticed the difference their efforts made. One peer said, “Listening to all the resources that the South Bend Early Learning Center provides for their families was unbelievable. They were determined to make their families feel supported, and like the center was another home for them. They help families get food and housing assistance, connect them to resources around the community, and provide support to families in numerous other ways. This program is only a fraction of the services and supports that the center delivers to families.”
The Washington State Department of Children, Youth, and Families ECEAP is proud to partner with this incredible group of individuals.