Wednesday, April 25 , 2018, 5:31 am | Fog/Mist 52º

 
 
 
 

Storyteller Preschool Gives Needy Children a Good Start

After just a week, the new facility is making lives normal for kids with unstable homes.

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Preschoolers at the new Storyteller Children’s Center had a pretty normal day Wednesday — except for the morning ribbon-cutting ceremony that involved Santa Barbara Mayor Marty Blum, Orfalea Foundations president Lois Mitchell, the school’s board of directors, and a huge pair of scissors.

In the morning were breakfast, lessons and games at the facility, 2121 De la Vina St. Noontime meant lunch on the back patio, a rather exciting event with about 20 kids dissecting sandwiches, eating fruit cups and brushing teeth under the supervision of two talented, multitasking teachers. Naptime was a two-hour affair and by the time the kids got up, it was almost time to leave.

It’s this normalcy that Storyteller tries to give to these children, executive director Terri Allison said.  A stable environment is exactly what these low-income and homeless children need, given the uncertainty they face at home.

“Most of our families are in some kind of crisis,” said Allison.

Addiction in the family can be a problem, financial troubles, or just living with unstable families in crowded conditions, she said.

“Priority is given to families in a shelter: Domestic Violence Solutions, working with St. Vincent’s or have some other referral from some other social service agency,” she said.

“It’s important for their developing brains,” she continued.

By the time children are 3, she said, they’re putting together the neural pathways to develop more complex emotions and concepts like empathy and compassion and discerning right from wrong, as well as higher-learning concepts.

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“It’s a development that can only be reached if the child is not constantly trying to survive,” she said.

Ultimately, said Allison, the early education benefits the child and the community.

Those families fortunate enough to find a spot in the school for their children will be able to put them through a tuition-free, normal early childhood education courtesy of the school’s partnership with the Community Action Commission of Santa Barbara County, which also provides medical and dental checkups and therapy for different kinds of needs. Parents also benefit from workshops and support groups, as they try to get back on their feet.

To make it all possible the organization launched its "Campaign for the Future," with a goal to raise $3.2 million to operate the school. The Orfalea Fund, established by Kinko’s founder Paul Orfalea, bought the space, a tidy little Craftsman-style house, and is leasing it to the school rent-free for 10 years. Most of the school’s funds come from private donors.

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"Studies have shown that the return for every dollar spent in early childhood education is about $3 to $17, " Allison said.

The benefits come in the form of decreased need for medical care, social services and law enforcement as these children get older.

The new location will take about 40 children off the school’s waiting list, but, according to development director Denise Hinkle, there are still more kids and families waiting to be helped.

“Our waiting list is over 100 right now,” she said.

Click here for more information about the Storyteller Children’s Center or call 805.682.9585.

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