There comes a point in our lives where the children are grown and our career path is defined. So we turn our attention to others.
For me, that realization came six years ago while serving on a United Way allocations committee. I was assigned to evaluate Child Care of Southwest Florida. CCSWFL is an accredited, nonprofit early childhood education provider with locations in Lee and Hendry counties. I left that assessment convinced that our community – myself included – can and should be doing more to prepare children for the future.
A high-quality early learning program is critical in developing academic, social, behavioral and emotional skills. Those skills guide students throughout school and beyond. They’re also a strong predictor of whether:
- Students will drop out of school
- Become teen parents
- Attend college
- Face arrest for a violent crime
So why don’t all parents register their children for child care? The cost is out of reach for many families. In Florida, the average cost for infant care is $770 per month. Fees for 4-year-olds average $607 monthly. Financial limitations keep many parents from enrolling their children in school until kindergarten, which is too late. They’re already behind their classmates and below grade-level expectations.
Recognizing the challenges, I began designating Child Care of Southwest Florida as the beneficiary on my annual United Way contribution form. I wanted to help children from hardworking, local families be able to afford an early childhood education. I wanted to help an organization where everyone was fully committed to the students’ wellbeing. That includes everyone from lunchroom staff and teachers to center directors and administrators.
After discussing Child Care of Southwest Florida with my colleagues, we decided as a team to tackle community service projects at child care centers. Projects included planting gardens, painting facilities, improving playground spaces and enhancing the landscaping. It’s so much better to learn in a beautiful, colorful environment.
Beyond that, I still wanted to help this organization in a deeper way. In 2019, I joined CCSWFL’s Board of Directors. It’s a group of 12 community-minded business leaders who share a similar passion for Child Care of Southwest Florida. The organization has strong academic and operational leaders. That’s why it regularly earns top ratings from independent organizations that evaluate the financial health and stewardship of nonprofits.
The Board of Directors discusses policies, budgets, academic initiatives and strategic planning. However, it’s become apparent that fundraising is a priority. Families in Southwest Florida are struggling right now. Money is tight. As a community, we must ensure children still have access to a high-quality early learning program. The lack of financial resources is a challenge, but it’s an obstacle we can overcome.
Child Care of Southwest Florida’s board members have joined CEO Chris Hansen in promoting the Primary Needs Scholarship Program. We’re asking generous businesses, individuals and foundations to support an educational program that is empowering entire families. Children can get a head start on their education. Meanwhile, parents can pursue career advancements and college degrees without feeling burdened by the cost of child care.
Having worked in the financial sector for decades, I have always focused on the bottom line. Education, particularly at Child Care of Southwest Florida, is an investment that always outperforms.
LEARN MORE: visit CCSWFL.org/Giving or call 239-278-1002.
About the Author
Fred Maschmidt is Senior Vice President of Investments and Branch Manager for Raymond James in Fort Myers. He serves on the Board of Directors for Child Care of Southwest Florida.