by Jeff Pickering
This was the welcome I received from Laura Perez, Center Director of RCMA’s Children’s House as I arrived for a recent site visit. The tour was hosted by Larry Salustro, a long-time volunteer and member of the organization’s statewide Board of Directors.
In spite of a torrential downpour typical of a Florida summer afternoon, Larry and I had the opportunity to visit three of RCMA’s local facilities in Wabasso and Fellsmere. These are part of a statewide network of 71 childcare centers that serve low-income families, particularly farm workers. At each facility, we were greeted by professional staff and saw classrooms filled with toddlers and preschoolers. Even as the end of a long day was approaching, all were energized, happy and actively engaged in learning activities.
I recently learned from the United Way of Indian River County that approximately 40 percent of Indian River County households, many of which include children, are struggling to afford basic needs. As a parent to three children, ages 13, 11 and 3, I have a personal appreciation for the role that early education and safe, quality childcare has played for our family. Access to these, however, has never been an issue.
Organizations like RCMA, and the child care centers it operates, are essential to the well-being of some of our community’s most important residents — children. While the majority of the organization’s financial support comes through state and federal contracts, the organization still depends on charitable donations from generous individuals for capital improvements,teacher training and professional development, and financial assistance to families in need. To learn more about RCMA and how you can help, visit www.rcma.net.