ECEAP is part of new mixed income apartments
By Marilyn Urness
The Liberty Park Community Development Center (LPCDC) broke ground in September at 1405 E. Hartson for a new Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) building to better serve the needs of children and their families, as well as provide more affordable housing units.
Scheduled for completion in April 2021, the two-classroom early learning center is part of a $3.2 million Liberty Park Apartments/Early Learning Center campus. Initially, there will be 20 affordable housing units. When the campus is complete, there will be 49 new housing units.
The units will be for a combination of low-income tenants and tenants paying the market rate. Low-income and market-rate units will be mixed to blur lines between tenants.
The Presbytery of the Inland Northwest founded Proclaim Liberty, which owns the property where the new apartments and center will be located. It was formed in the 1970s to build Liberty Park Terrace Apartments at 1417 E. Hartson for low-income people who were displaced when their homes were demolished for the construction of I-90.
In 1993, the presbytery founded the Liberty Park Community Development Center as the Liberty Park Child Development Center, a nonprofit to provide day care, ECAP and other services.
The new building, designed in part by staff, will have features the current building lacks: a lobby, an attached playground, private meeting rooms, two classrooms, a full commercial kitchen, a teacher workroom/lounge and a conference room.
Proclaim Liberty asked state legislators for assistance. They granted $1 million to start building. With a grant and loan from the city, they have $2.2 million.
As part of LPCDC's goal to improve the neighborhood, the new building repurposes a vacant lot.
"We're trying to make a difference in our neighborhood and provide a communal place for everyone," said Ivy Chetverikov, director of the ECEAP program.
The center is a community building housing several programs that focus on children and the whole family, offering support for families in the neighborhood. Along with ECEAP, the children's programs are Champion, Champ Camp and Youth Group.
Natalie Bragg, the center director, first came to lead the Champion after school drop-in program when it started in 2013.
It provides after-school activities for five to 12-year-old at-risk youth in the Liberty Park neighborhood. They come to play games, do homework or set personal goals.
Champ Camp is a free summer program that introduces children to Spokane and its natural wonders, as part of teaching them about God.
Recently LPCDC had to change their procedures for safety because of COVID-19.
Usually ECEAP has had 20 morning children, 20 afternoon children and 20 school day slots.
"This year, ECEAP is adapting by having smaller class sizes. Students are only in the building two or three days a week. Enrollment has been low. We still have 22 openings, which is unusual, but it's the same for programs across the state," said Ivy.
The ECEAP program also offers classes for parents in Circle of Security Parenting.
With schools closed to in-person learning, Natalie said the center saw a need for academic support for children.
So LPCDC now provides a safe space for children to access in-person support for their online school day. They offer real time online school support from 8 a.m. to noon, Mondays to Thursdays for kindergarten to sixth grade students.
"Children participating in our program are on alternating schedules," said Natalie. "The program is held in our conference room, complete with plexiglass desk separators and hand sanitizing stations.
The center offers English as a Second Language (ESL) and other classes for parents in homeownership, budgeting, nutrition, self-care for parents and resume building.
ESL classes teach immigrants and refugees English. Each year, staff see improvements in speaking skills of ESL students.
Learning English gives parents more access to resources, such as medical care and better jobs. ESL classes are free, offered by volunteers from Whitworth, Gonzaga and Eastern Washington Universities, Spokane Community College and World Relief.
The Liberty Park Community Development Center is a neighborhood hub that connects people of all ages to opportunities for spiritual, educational and social growth as a mission of the Presbytery of the Inland Northwest.
Its programs seek to empower participants with knowledge, relationships and tools, while introducing them to Christ's love, said Natalie.
"We seek to be a living witness to the Spirit's work in Spokane," she said.
Ivy said the Liberty Park Child Development Center included both a paid day care center, which was too expensive for many residents of the Liberty Park neighborhood, and ECEAP to provide free preschool mornings and afternoons.
Ivy shared a favorite memory from when she was ECEAP family service coordinator.
"I had worked with a family for a year and half, and realized the student had never gone to the dentist. Our program requires us to have a recent dental exam on file. I reminded the mother over and over," she said. "One day she shouted, 'He went to the dentist!' She was so excited that she had finally done it," Ivy said.
"We help each enrolled family with whatever they need. We referred one family to Spokane Public Schools for special education services. We made sure another family had enough money to do their laundry," she said.
"I feel the most spiritual when I'm working with the community and giving back," she said.
Ivy, who grew up in Spokane, earned a bachelor's degree at George Fox University and finished a master's at Whitworth University, where she met Spencer Granger, who was then director of the center. He encouraged her to apply to be family service coordinator and later director. Despite her initial misgivings about being director, she enjoys being able to implement her ideas.
"I have also come to know the people and see how they grow and regain hope," she said.
Natalie feels closest to God when working in the community to give hope to people in need.
Originally from California, she moved to Spokane eight years ago to attend Moody Bible Institute, where she earned a bachelor's degree in biblical studies in 2017.
"One of my courses required volunteer hours, so I picked LPCDC," she said. "I chose it randomly off a list and I've been here ever since."
Three years ago, she became the center's director responsible for bringing the community together and providing resources for LPDCD residents to succeed in life.
"I am passionate about building community and furthering the education of our future leaders," said Natalie.
For information, call 534-0957 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright@ The Fig Tree, December, 2020