Storyteller Children’s Center, a preschool for homeless and at-risk children, will officially open its second school next week, thanks to the generosity of the Orfalea Fund and a major fund-raising campaign.

Santa Barbara Mayor Marty Blum will officiate at a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 10 a.m. Wednesday at the school, 2121 De la Vina St.

Storyteller, which educates children ages 18 months to 5 years, has had a persistent waiting list of 50 to 80 children over the past several years. To increase the number of children it can serve, Storyteller is opening the second school with the help of the Orfalea Fund, a foundation started by Kinko’s founder Paul Orfalea to support high-quality educational programs that promote healthy development.

The Orfalea Fund purchased the charming Craftman-style house on De la Vina and is leasing it to Storyteller rent-free for 10 years. Storyteller has undertaken a fund-raising campaign to raise the $3.2 million needed to operate the school. In just six months, it has raised nearly 50 percent of the goal.

“Storyteller is so thankful that the Orfalea Fund offered to purchase the school for us,” said Jon Clark, Storyteller’s board president. “It’s a dream come true.”

Children who attend Storyteller come from families who are very poor: a family of four makes less than $20,000 a year. The children often have developmental delays or emotional disturbances, and most are experiencing trauma or chaos in their family. Unfortunately, drug abuse and domestic violence are common in the families.

But at Storyteller, children are welcomed into a safe, home-like atmosphere. They learn from teachers who are trained to handle such issues. Therapists come to visit the children at Storyteller; some children receive counseling four or five times a week for their special needs.

“The research shows that high-quality early education programs can really make a huge difference in a child’s life — especially a child that is starting out with so many disadvantages,” said executive director Terri Allison.

“We’re providing them not only with an excellent preschool education, but a strong foundation for all the learning, behavior and health opportunities that follow. Children thrive here.”

Now celebrating its 20th year, Storyteller was founded when a group of volunteers pushed aside cots at Transition House to make space for a small group of children. After moving several times, it settled into its State Street location in 2000. About a third of its funding comes from the federal Head Start program, and the rest from private donations. But the new school will need to be entirely supported by private donations since no new government money is available.

While their children attend preschool at Storyteller, parents must attend parent education classes and be actively seeking work or going to school.

“Storyteller’s goal is to help bring stability to families in crisis,” said Allison. “These families are working so hard to get their lives together.”

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

Victoria Juarez is a development associate at Storyteller’s Children’s Center.