People amaze me everyday, but this really amazes me . . .
I just sat down to write a piece about Child and Family Network Centers (CFNC), another wonderful charity which is supported by the runningbrooke Fund. I read these words in the pamphlet given to me during a recent visit, "The Child and Family Network Centers was founded by a group of mothers living in Alexandria's public housing (emphasis added) when they learned that their children were failing kindergarten and would be denied entry into first grade." How many twenty-seven year old, award-winning, charitable organizations do you know of which were started by mothers living in public housing? OK, that's the part that left me flabbergasted, but there is much more to learn about CFNC. Just so you know, I tried to find the names and pictures of these amazing women, but I haven't done so thus far. Here is their story and the story of CFNC:
In 1984, Helena Pratt, an employee of Alexandria's Mental Health Association and a member of Immanuel Church on the Hill, established the Family Helpers Network in the Cameron Valley public housing complex in response to the concerns of the mothers mentioned above. Later that year, Ms. Pratt and 15 of the concerned mothers taught a "kindergarten prep" where they team taught participating children. In 1985, the founding mothers hired Barbara Mason as the organization's first real teacher and staff member, and she eventually became it Executive Director. By 1991, the school had 80 students and CFNC was incorporated and established its own board.
A recent photo of Barbara Mason and her husband Jerry.
Two years after it was incorporated, CFNC expanded its program to provide Family Support Services such as job placement coaching and health services to the families of its students. By 1996, CFNC offered Adult Literacy, ESL classes. As the years went by, the preschool developed and expanded into the current CFNC of Northern Virginia. CFNC currently enrolls children in 10 classrooms spread out between 6 locations. Each of these locations provides the same high-quality preschool program and comprehensive family services. English as a Second Language(ESL) courses are only offered at its Birchmere location. ESL is taught by a wonderful woman named Eugenie Ballering.
Top Photo: Eugenie Ballering (ESL instructor) in front with ESL students behind her.
Bottom Photo: a close up of the ESL room and some really conscientious students!!
The other teachers at CFNC are just as 'exceptional' as Ms. Ballering. CFNC teachers complete an average of 55 hours of professional development and training which far exceeds the 16 development hours required by Virginia State Licensing standards. These teachers are committed to continuing their education and improving their credentials through developmental training and coursework. Some teachers at CFNC are actually parents of former students. Take Tonya . . . Tonya is now a lead teacher at the Birchmere location of CFNC, and I actually met her while I visited. Tonya's daughter was enrolled in CFNC's Charles Houston Center in 2000 and she joined the Teacher Assistant Program which gives low-income parents a stipend to observe their children and to learn new redirecting strategies and parenting skills. Tonya became more involved with CFNC, and she eventually helped to obtain the funding from the City OF Alexadria's Recreation Department to keep the Charles Houston CFNC Center open until 5PM daily so that parents could finish their work days before having to pick up their children. In 2001, Tonya left her government job to accept a teaching position at CFNC. In 2008 and 2009, Tonya received the Demonstration Classroom Award from CFNC's High/Scope Educational Research Foundation for her excellence in teaching. Now that's a case of pulling oneself up by one's bootstraps if I ever saw one. Congratulations Tonya!!!
Tonya is the beautiful woman on the right wearing the green sweater.
Currently, Margaret Patterson serves as the Executive Director of CFNC. Although CFNC currently teaches 168 children in the ten centers throughout Alexandria and Arlington, Margaret has told me that there are 130+ students on its waiting list. The cost to provide preschool to its students is approximately $10,500 per student. CFNC receives funding from the City of Alexandria, Arlington County and the state of VA, but these funds only reduce the cost per child to $6000. CFNC has to make up the difference by soliciting private donations from people like you and me. There is a distinct reason why CFNC receives less money from the government than from private sources. To put it in a nutshell, CFNC supports the working poor. CFNC serves families whose children would not qualify for the federally funded Head Start program. Head Start serves families at or below the poverty line, $22,350. CFNC will serve children and families at or below 180% of the poverty level, or families making $41,348 or less for a family of 4.
Your donation to the runningbrooke Fund will help Alexandria and Arlington's working poor families. The runningbrooke Fund has donated $27,500 to CFNC to date. Helping families help themselves is a wonderful thing to do. Thanks to all the donors to the runningbrooke fund for helping CFNC to continue providing such wonderful services to people in need! Oh, and I can't forget . . . thanks to everyone at CFNC for all you do!!
Just a sampling of the smiling faces I saw at CFNC's Birchmere location:
. . . and a little of their handiwork. Maybe we have some future architects and engineers in our midst!