Serve the Family, Serve the Child

Saving Grace Arts Center photo

Young children grow up within communities and families. To give a child a great start, you don’t just focus on the child: you also enrich his or her world.

That’s the philosophy behind the recent excitement on Main Street in Whitney Point, where the Whitney Point Preschool and Daycare recently launched a slew of new programs.

The buzz started in 2014, when the Preschool paid $50,000—including $10,000 from the Stephen J. and Betty E. Purtell Fund at the Community Foundation—to buy the former Grace Episcopal Church and Parish House. Renaming that property the Saving Grace Arts Center and Meeting Place, the Preschool has used it to: house its new universal pre-kindergarten program; sponsor concerts and shows; open a parent resource center; hold summer and after school STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) programs for middle schoolers; offer fresh, affordable produce through the CHOW Mobile Farmers Market; and host classes on how to cook those wholesome foods.

Why such variety? It’s all part of the preschool’s mission to serve the families of northern Broome County, says director Kim Downs. “The needs of so many of our families go beyond preschool and daycare programs. If we’re able to provide additional programming, we absolutely want to do that.”

Consider middle school students, who are probably even more vulnerable than three- and four-year olds, says Downs. “We didn’t want to just wave goodbye to them at age 12.” The STEAM programs give low income kids who are struggling in middle school a chance to gain new knowledge and expand their horizons. Among other things, kids in the program have learned about nutrition, visited local farms, toured colleges in the area and donated service
to the community.

The Arts Center’s first year included a sold-out concert by singer-songwriter Jared Campbell, a magic show, a bluegrass concert and several other events, some with a cost for tickets and some free of charge. “We hoped that we could raise some money and also provide families with entertainment that didn’t require them to drive to Binghamton or Cortland,” Downs says.

Besides helping the Preschool buy the property, the grant from the Purtell Fund played another critical role, Downs says. It helped prime the pump, encouraging other foundations and the community at large to support the Preschool’s programs. “Whitney Point has felt validated by this giving,” she says. “When you see that foundations in Greater Binghamton also believe in Whitney Point, that’s a great gift to the community.”


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