Traverse City Record-Eagle

Business

January 15, 2014

Consumers funds initiative

TRAVERSE CITY — Consumers Energy donated $40,000 to help seed a comprehensive early childhood education program in the Grand Traverse region.

The money will be used to help plan as many as five early childhood satellite offices in Grand Traverse, Kalkaska, Leelanau, Antrim and Benzie counties. Organizers are also entertaining the possibility of an early childhood center for the region located in the Traverse City area.

“We believe that investing in our state’s young people is one of the best business investments we can make,” said Carolyn Bloodworth, secretary-treasurer of the Consumers Energy Foundation.

Consumers awarded the money to the Traverse Bay Great Start Collaborative Tuesday morning during a ceremony at the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce. Great Start Collaborative Coordinator Mary Manner said regional satellite offices for early childhood education could be established at existing facilities, including schools and libraries.

Manner said more than 700 parents of preschool children were surveyed in the region as part of the initiative, with parents indicating a top priority was access to childcare and educational resources within a reasonable driving distance of their homes.

“They want resources where they live,” Manner said. “Parents want to be connected and they want to know what’s available out there. Right now that’s very, very hard, and there is a terrible shortage right now for child care throughout our region, especially for infants.”

Mike Hill, superintendent of the Traverse Bay Area Intermediate School District, said a steering committee is being assembled to examine how the project will be funded long-term.

“We are now in the planning stages of what it might be, and which communities would have pilots,” Hill said.

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