A local legislative delegate spent time Friday exploring the Bartlett Center, where his own son once played basketball after school, to learn how extra state funding might be able to help.
State Rep. Dean VanSchoiack, R-Savannah, affirmed the need is plain enough. There are 84 kids enrolled, with space for no more than 86 at any one time. There are 18 young ones on the waiting list, according to Executive Director LaTonya Williams, across all services of infant/toddler daycare, pre-kindergarten programs and after-school activities for older children. The aged building remains in need of upkeep even in the wake of recent achievements like a gymnasium renovation. VanSchoiack said he came away impressed.
“It’s a vast array of children that they’re working with here and helping to serve this community,” he said. “They take care of these children and give them the nutrition they need, and the love they need and the support that they need for them and their families.”
Arianna Davis-Williams works as an assistant director of programming and curriculum. She said it’s important to recognize the center is more than meets the eye, and inviting officials like VanSchoiack is part of that.
“A lot of times, people see the Bartlett Center and they see the location and they’re like, ‘Oh that’s the ‘ghetto’ part of town, why should we care?’” Davis-Williams said. “But having representatives come into our building, it not only shows that we are well-rounded in who comes but also lets the kids know about what’s out there, what they can achieve in life beyond what’s just in St. Joe.”
VanSchoiack, whose district does not cover urban St. Joseph, said trips like this demonstrate the need for statewide leadership. Much hay has been made in Jefferson City about ensuring the welfare of children. Funding child care services must be part of that, he said.
“I look at every one of these children and I think that each one of them is a precious person,” he said. “They deserve a good living. They deserve to be taken care of and loved, and that’s what’s happening here at the Bartlett Center.”
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