First Steps launches playground campaign

Published 4:22 pm Tuesday, August 4, 2009

First Steps: it’s an early childhood development program right here in Butler County that emphasizes “maximizing learning opportunities for kids from the start.”

Lisa Nimmer, director of Healthy Kids, a non-profit organization that runs First Steps in partnership with the BOE, is visiting with local civic organizations to explain what First Steps is – and isn’t – and what the center does to pave the way for “a brighter future” for the 53 children it serves. She also shared ways the community can help the center.

“First Steps was created three years ago when a need was seen for high-quality child care in this community. One year ago we entered into a partnership with the BOE. This facility is located in four rooms in the former Home Ec building on the old Greenville High campus,” Nimmer said.

Unlike Head Start, which is designed for low-income students and is federally funded, First Steps is fully funded through tuition fees of $83 to $103 per week, which also cover the pay of the 11-person teaching staff.

Hours are from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Children in classes for six weeks to 18 months; 18 months to 2 years; 2 years, and 3 and 4 years of age, are included in the program, for which there is an extensive waiting list, Nimmer said. The center also serves children of students in the system’s Second Chance Program.

“We stress pre-numerary and pre-literacy skills, character development . . . the children are always active and busy. This is not a daycare; it is a complete early childhood development facility, with a curriculum. This program is the first step to a guaranteed place in our Bright Beginnings program, which can lead to greater success in our Butler County School System,” Nimmer said.

“And our tuition costs compare very favorably with regular daycare costs.”

The program is looking to expand learning opportunities for the children through getting them out in the Great Outdoors. However, the playground area currently used by the children is, NImmer says, “with Alabama weather, either a big mud hole, or too sunny and hot for the children to play out there.”

The First Steps Playground Improvement Campaign is now underway to take the play area to “the next level.”

“We need mulching for the playground, a gated fence for a separate playground for our infants and toddlers, and a pavilion-type cover to allow the kids to get outside and play every day, no matter what the weather,” Nimmer said.

The total costs of these improvements is an estimated $6,500.

“We are contacting our local civic clubs to help us with this project and any interested businesses and individuals. They will make a positive difference for our community’s children ad that benefits us all,” Nimmer said.

Major sponsors will be recognized on a plaque on the playground fence sign: gold ($1,000); silver ($500) and bronze ($250).

Contributions can be mailed to: First Steps, P.O. Box 541, Greenville AL 36037.

“We also need volunteer readers to share stories with our children, and we welcome members of our community to come and read to the children and tour our facilities,” Nimmer said. For more information, call 334-371-2104.