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Early education center director talks about embracing virtual lessons

Jessica Hoffman

Jessica Hoffman, Director of Development & Community Relations, Growing Futures Early Education Center

Q. What has been the hardest challenge you have faced or obstacle you have overcome?
A. COVID-19 presented several challenges and obstacles that Growing Futures had to overcome. The first being the postponement of our largest Annual Luncheon fundraiser that was scheduled for Apr. 21. Through ambition and creativity, we were recently able to reformat and execute our first-ever virtual event in its place. Our goal was to raise $15,000 and we exceeded our goal by bringing in a little over $17,000.

In addition, with the facility closed due to the Stay-At-Home Orders, our teachers had to learn how to evolve to teaching virtually. Though they miss their children dearly, their willingness and adaptation to change has been inspiring to witness. Despite the ever-evolving changes amid COVID-19, our staff continues to impress us with their positivity, their quick adaptation to change and the great lengths they have gone to, ensuring the continuation of education for our children and families. We have had virtual lessons that cover everything from storytelling, to step-by-step sensory activities with spaghetti and moon sand, to nature scavenger hunts that encourage engagement, movement and participation from the entire family, to a tour of a teacher’s horse farm!

Our family advocates have been connecting families with partners who provide resources as needs arise. The “in-home visits” continue to occur virtually. The parents are thrilled with this option and typically end up going over their 90 minutes, happy to interact and connect. 

Volunteerism is thriving! Our volunteers are coming up with creative ways to help our families get through this difficult time. They have provided video clips of them reading stories, playing instruments, or connecting to classroom Zoom meetings. They are making blankets, donating supplies and planting flowers in our planter boxes at the school.

We’ve taken a moment for self-reflection as an organization and used this time to create a new website, that more clearly reflects our mission and values. We’ve increased our social media presence exponentially by showcasing all these positive stories and engaging with our followers.

Q. How has your funding been impacted?
A. Funding has been impacted drastically. Many of our funding resources have decreased their annual giving by 50% or more due to the pandemic. Also, due to the facility closure, we were also not receiving any income for the months of part of March, all of April, May, July and August. When you consider that we are losing $30,000/month being closed, we have been impacted significantly. 

Q. What do you anticipate as you look at the next several months?
A. We will be reopening the facility to children in a hybrid model on Sept. 8.

Q. What are you most proud of as an outcome of the pandemic
A. I’m most proud of the teamwork, the grace of our organization evolving, the increase in our interaction and communication with our children and families, and the support of our community.