At the groundbreaking for the Early Childhood Learning Center on Atkins Avenue in Asbury Park this week were (from left) Chip Craig of Interfaith, Interfaith Executive Director Paul McEvily, Linda Eno (Not sure of her company or position), Tatiana and Peter Cranco of Jersey Mike’s Subs and Kerwin Webb of Interfaith.
By CAROL GORGA WILLIAMS
Groundbreaking was held this week for Interfaith Neighbors’ Early Childhood Learning Center at 302 Atkins Ave, a block and a half north of Springwood Avenue.
The building will be 4,200-square-feet and will include three activity rooms or classrooms, cooking facilities, a training room, two children’s restrooms or changing areas, an outdoor play area, controlled access and security system, onsite pickup and drop off area, east access to West Side residents, parent training and health screenings.
“We’ve been helping people get to a better place for 34 years and the support we’ve enjoyed has been tremendous,” said Paul L. McEvily, Interfaith executive director. “We do a variety of different things in different areas. Part of the impetus(for the fund-raising campaign) is to centralize our efforts.
“We would like to localize and centralize all the work we are doing in one place: Springwood Avenue in Asbury Park,” McEvily said.
. According to the campaign “Meeting the Moment, putting more early childhood education within geographic and financial reach, can help repair gaps that have worsened in the wake of Covid-19 as burdens fell disportionately on low-income families dealing with child care and fewer jobs and reduced work hours.
According to a poll conducted by Farleigh Dickinson University, three out of every four parents said their pre-epidemic financial status changed during the last several years: 34 percent experienced a reduction in work hours while 19 percent had wages cut. Job loss affected 14 percent of those surveyed.
The “Meeting the Moment’ Campaign will bring two new Early Childhood Centers to the city’s West Side.
One will be a stand-alone center that will serve younger children from the ages of three months to three years.
The second entity – which will be housed within the Marmora Community and Education Center – will serve those from three to five years.
Tuition for either program will be based on each family’s ability to pay and each center will provide additional services as well.
According to Interfaith Neighbors, studies have long demonstrated that high quality early education for children from low-income families help keep pupils from falling behind, improves attendance, results in few discipline referrals, higher test scores in math and reading and reduces the likelihood that graduates from early intervention will be placed in special education programs as they grow older.
By placing younger children into such early childhood programs also help families support themselves because parents and caregivers are able to keep their jobs, pursue their own education or participate in career training.
The Capital Campaign also quotes from a Harvard University study that says “investing in early childhood is a solution that creates upward mobility through opportunity.’
Interfaith Neighbors maintains a variety of programs to assist with rental and mortgage needs, nutrition and meals on wheels, Affordable housing, Neighborhood Revitalization, the Business Development Center, Kula Urban Farm, the Launch Center. SOAR Career Preparation, West Side Day Care Center, “Greenthumbs” STEM Education and healthy living initiatives.
Ninety cents of every dollar collected goes directly to Interfaith programs, according to its capital report. The Early Childhood Center requires $3 million in funding, according to estimates by Interfaith.
Its vision promises to undertake the “dynamic action that is needed to help bring systemic change to the underserved community of the West Side of Asbury Park…while strengthening its foundational programming that serves all of Monmouth County.’