Commentary: Children’s center and church working to expand childcare facilities

For many years, Charlotte Children’s Center and Charlotte Congregational Church have partnered to provide childcare and pre-school education for families in our community through the Children’s Center Extension Program (Voyager). While the main children’s center site is on Ferry Road (across from the Charlotte Library), Voyager is housed in rented space in the vestry building of Charlotte Congregational Church. Currently, our two institutions are working together on some exciting projects that we’re pleased to share with the wider community.

Courtesy photo Julian LaMere on the wooden and starry playground.
Courtesy photo
Julian LaMere on the wooden and starry playground.

Over the past nine months there has been a movement to renovate the playground area on the church campus that serves children from both the Voyager Program and the church. The vision is to replace the fence, expand the play area and replace the main playground structure.

With the help of many volunteers, essential in-kind donations, funds contributed by both institutions and a generous private donation by members of the church, the playground renovation is underway. In May 2023, the play area was expanded and a new playground structure was added. Later this summer, the fence will be replaced, and the overall play area will be significantly expanded into a shadier part of the church lawn. Next time you’re on Church Hill Road, look for the new cedar structure with red flags, blue slides and a starry roof.

While this playground project is visible to the whole community, it’s just one prong of a two-pronged initiative to address critical needs in our community. We celebrate the recent legislative action in Montpelier (H.217). Once it becomes law, it will provide the investment needed to expand childcare and pre-school options for families.

We are mindful that right now the waiting list at the children’s center is very long, with infant care being especially tight. In light of that reality and with a shared desire to serve our community by meeting this critical need, Charlotte Children’s Center and Charlotte Congregational Church are furthering their partnership to provide infant care for the first time at the Voyager Program.

We’re working together to make the church’s largest classroom into a dedicated infant room while getting creative to preserve space for the existing preschool students and the church’s vibrant children and youth programs. Through a grant awarded by Let’s Grow Kids and VT’s Child Development Division to Charlotte Children’s Center, a grant provided by Shelburne-Charlotte-Hinesburg Interfaith Projects (SCHIP), and donations by both institutions, the room should be ready this fall to welcome up to six infants. The grant funds will also help to expand infant and toddler capacity at the children’s center main campus and preschool spaces in the Voyager Program.

The indoor and outdoor improvements represent a significant investment in time and money, but they are also an investment in the future resilience of our community. At a time in our country when there are endless reports of disagreement, division and institutions working against one another, right here in Charlotte we have a different story to tell: A story of shared vision, institutional cooperation, wide-spread generosity and bold action leading to a playground of possibilities.