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Dollars, Diapers & Dilemmas: Community Foundation Martin - St. Lucie Keeps a Check on Reality

Dunbar Early Learning Center

One of the many things the pandemic is showing us is that government funding is there, but, slow to move.

So, one of those unintended silver linings in all of this, is that it got good people on the ground, working in real time, responding to an outcry of community needs.

WR: So, when this hit, it was really, really nerve-wracking. Like, how are we going to pay the light bills? How are we going to be sure that the kids are being fed? What about the diapers? Who is going to help us with all of this? And so…

This is Wendy Reynoso from the Dunbar Early Learning Center in Hobe Sound, where they serve 96 children, starting as young as six weeks old, and up through kindergarten, most living at or below the poverty level.

Dunbar is part of the Banner Lake community which includes neighboring facilities with community outreach programs for all ages.

WR: EXACTLY. It’s like cradle to grave. That’s the best way I can say. Cradle to grave services. And Dunbar is the beginning of the journey. Dunbar really sets the whole tone for what I call the educational corridor on Lantana Avenue in Banner Lake.

Like everywhere, the pandemic has created economic issues.

WR: You know, we budget for what we need for the year. Anything extra, like, it stretches us.

Extras like sanitation stations, regular deep cleaning services. Staff focused solely on cleaning, literally minute by minute. All that comes with a pandemic.

So, at this same time, the Community Foundation Martin - St. Lucie was pulling together a Consortium of generous people capable and ready to give and answer prayers like the ones at Dunbar Early Learning Center, and so many others, in the community.

WR: If it had not been for them, if it had not been for them, I know literally we would not have been able to open our doors. And recognizing that one kid not coming to this center because we couldn’t afford to open the doors, would mean one parent losing their job.

Credit Tania Ortega-Cowan
Elizabeth Barbella of the Community Foundation Martin - St. Lucie

Last week, we dropped in on Elizabeth Barbella of the Community Foundation Martin - St. Lucie, in Stuart. The Consortium was a natural extension of the Community Foundation which is used to connecting philanthropic funds to local charities of all kinds.

EB: Children, eldercare, arts, culture, environment. So, the whole gamut. It could be medical. It could be programming…

So, when it came to the Dunbar Early Learning Center,

EB: We rallied very quickly there to make sure that they were able to continue to serve families while they were going through these periods of opening and shut down.

It’s an early learning center that also wraps around to support the whole family with things like diapers and food and emotional services. And helps parents keep putting food on their own tables by being able to get back to work.

EB: Absolutely, because that’s key for that community! I need a safe, sanitary place to take my kids because I must return to work as soon as I can.

Since first starting in the spring, the Consortium has already accomplished this:

EB: In Martin County: 1.15 million deployed. St. Lucie County: $745,000 deployed.

Their efforts are continuing. The Consortium meets weekly to listen to our local charities and learn how to respond to what is needed right here, right now.

EB: What will they need to pivot to be able to continue to deliver services safely and in a way that is meaningful and successful with the people that are really relying on them?

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