Parents help lead effort for Pateros Treehouse Early Education center
PATEROS — Access to child care is a huge challenge for families in North Central Washington, where the number of available licensed slots meet only a third of the demand.
For Kailee Tanneberg, access to child care is crucial to being able to continue her work in financial analysis at Gebbers Farms in Brewster. Tanneberg and her husband Kelsey live in Mansfield, where he helps operate the family’s fourth-generation wheat operation.
Their three-year-old daughter, Palmer, goes to the Activity Based child care (ABC) in Pateros operated by Carlene Anders and her husband Gene Dowers. It’s currently the only licensed child care facility in Pateros. When Dowers and Anders started talking about retiring from that business a few years ago, that news sent panic waves through the households of ABC parents. Anders and Dowers started working with parents to find a way to continue their work.
What drew Tanneberg to the ABC program was that it has a reputation as a constructive and positive learning environment for kids.
Tanneberg, a native of Tonasket, was recruited onto the board of the Pateros Treehouse Early Education Organization nonprofit that Dowers and Anders envisioned as a way to continue and expand child care opportunities in the community. Tanneberg serves as president and has been at the forefront of handling the administrative paperwork for the organization.
It’s a working board rather than a policy board and everyone pitches in to help out with construction and cleanup. Thanks to a $110,000 donation by Gebbers Farms, Apple House and Chelan Fresh and $540,000 state early learning grant, the Treehouse expects to open its doors later this year in the remodeled and upgraded former Church of Christ building.
Tanneberg was drawn to becoming involved partly out of her commitment to having a quality place for Palmer to receive care and further develop as a youngster and partly out of a sense of service to the community.
“It’s going to have a long-term positive impact on the community, starting at the most critical age,” Tanneberg said.
The Treehouse will serve infants to school-age children, thereby expanding the types of services that are available for families. Every study has shown that early childhood learning is essential for the development of young minds. Those who start out school behind almost invariably complete their K-12 journey behind their peers. Together, we can help close that opportunity gap.
That’s what makes projects like the Treehouse early learning effort so crucial. Our commitment to getting all kids ready to learn will pay massive dividends in lower social service costs, reducing the need for remedial schooling and the like. This just makes good common sense.
The economics of child care in our country are such that it’s difficult to make ends meet. Tuition doesn’t cover the costs of operation so most child care facilities rely on fundraising to balance their budgets, Tanneberg said.
The Treehouse will accept state funding and so parents who are eligible for assistance to afford tuition will be able to participate. That’s great news because without that commitment families on the lower end of the income scale would be hard pressed to afford it for their kids.
Tanneberg said being president of the board has been a great learning experience and has given her new appreciation for how creative one must be to get things done. Perseverance is something that Anders has modeled for the board. During the first go-round of Early Learning Facility grants by the state Department of Commerce, Pateros was unsuccessful. Anders persisted and they were ultimately successful in getting the grant this spring.
The Treehouse early learning effort is an example of how communities can work together to give all children a great start for their social and academic lives.
The Treehouse has raised $760,000 out of an initial goal of $780,000. You can support this work by visiting paterostreehouse.com.