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Small community, big achievement | News, Sports, Jobs

If you don’t normally pick up a copy of our sister paper, the Lake Placid News, this week would be a good week to do so.

On the front page of the newspaper, Lauren Yates, editor of Enterprise and News, talks about an effort to construct a new, free-standing building for the Little Peaks Preschool and Early Childhood Center in Keene.

Just like a few years ago when the community of approximately 1,100 people came together to raise over $1 million to renovate the Keene Valley Library, the community came together again to raise over $1.4 million to kick off construction of the scenic Little Peaks. new home by Dart Brook. Part-time Keene Valley resident Annette Merle-Smith also donated $500,000 to a $3 million endowment fund to subsidize tuition for families in need and provide staff with higher salaries.

That’s a huge amount of money raised by the residents of such a small town, and that’s not even including the volunteer hours community members put in to make it a reality. It just shows what can happen when a community comes together for a good cause.

This investment will go a long way: Not only will Little Peaks get a new home, but it will allow the facility to grow from its current three-hour-a-day program serving eight children to a full daycare with more slots available.

Creating this new home for Little Peaks is so crucial, especially at a time when it is becoming increasingly difficult for parents in the Adirondacks to find affordable child care.

A recent report by the Adirondack Birth to Three Alliance, an organization created by the Adirondack Foundation that focuses on child care advocacy and research, shows that 80% of census tracts in Clinton, Essex counties , Franklin, Hamilton and Warren are considered “childcare deserts”, which means the number of children far exceeds the number of childcare slots available. And while the need for childcare continues, the number of available slots is shrinking. Between 2017 and 2019, the number of regulated slots in early childhood education programs in this five-county region decreased by 586, leaving 4,711 slots for the 11,000 children under age 6 living here, according to the Adirondack Birth to Three Alliance report. Of these 4,711 locations, 34% are in Franklin and Essex counties.

One of the best parts of this Little Peaks project is that if all goes according to plan, the center plans to provide children with not only healthy food and a safe environment in which to spend their early years, but also meaningful care and support. high quality. Executive director Reid Jewett Smith told The News that the Little Peaks board and staff want kids to be able to create art, ride indoor tricycles, help with kitchen chores and spend lots of time outdoors, whether working in a vegetable garden behind the center or playing on a playground.

Jewett Smith said she hopes to see the new building open in 2023, marking a new chapter in Little Peaks’ 30-year history.

It was an inspiring effort and great news for Keene and the wider region.

Anyone interested in getting a glimpse of the progress of the project will have the opportunity next week: an open house is scheduled for 5 p.m. this coming Tuesday.

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