Fifty Years is Reason to Celebrate!

Despite the pandemic, Cristy Morrell, Executive Director of Critchlow Adkins Children’s Centers (CACC), has a lot to be grateful for these days. While low key due to COVID-19, CACC is celebrating an impressive milestone this year: 50 years of providing quality, financially accessible childcare for children in a safe, enriching and nurturing environment.

CACC works in partnership with Talbot County Public Schools by providing educational year-round preschool, pre-k – 5th grade before- and after-school care, and summer programs at each of the four area elementary schools which helps to keep childcare convenient and affordable. A fifth site that is a stand-alone building offers year-round, educational preschool programs for children ages 2 – 4.

Asked how CACC has navigated through five decades successfully Cristy says, “It boils down to solid board leadership, an enthusiastic staff, and wonderful community support.” Cristy feels blessed to have a supportive board. “My Board of Directors believes strongly in our mission and their desire to ensure CACC meets the needs of families in our community is at the forefront of all of their decisions. Over the past three years, the Board has had a guiding hand in expanding our site in Trappe to include a preschool program and has worked to make it possible for CACC to have two new classrooms included in the new Easton Elementary School. We had a lot to celebrate this year, and then COVID-19 hit.”

A recent CACC fundraiser was the Pinwheel Garden, which is shown here at the Trappe location. Donors could purchase a pinwheel in honor of someone to help CACC celebrate 50 years.

On today’s challenges, Cristy adds, “Our Finance and Executive Committees have been very instrumental in navigating these challenging times. It has been difficult but I know we will be a better, stronger program when this is through.”

CACC has over 40 community partnerships that help to enrich their students’ experiences. Prior to COVID, CACC students would take field trips to the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, have visiting artists from the Academy Art Museum, and pick pumpkins at Family Affair Farm. Children also benefitted from vision and hearing tests from the Lions Club, and enjoyed learning about planets from a travelling planetarium courtesy of PNC Bank. Cristy feels very fortunate that Talbot County has so many wonderful organizations that are happy to collaborate with CACC.

This summer, teachers and site directors went above and beyond making the program fun and exciting with obstacle courses, STEM activities, cooking, art projects, and much more.

While a lot is asked of childcare providers in general, it has been heightened due to the pandemic. “I see our teachers coming to work and know they are concerned. Even so, they are here every day for their families. They provide a safe, loving place for their students and the kids love it. Our teachers are truly an impressive group of women.”

CACC’s five sites are Maryland State Department of Education accredited and have earned the highest Maryland EXCELS Check Level 5 based on nationally recognized quality standards and best practices. Accreditation and EXCELS ratings, unlike licensing, are not required for childcare centers. They are voluntary review processes and are awarded only to childcare programs that substantially exceed state licensing requirements. To be accredited, CACC is evaluated on family engagement, health and safety checks, staff credentials and classroom observations. Parents seeking care and education for their young children can use accreditation as a means of locating the highest quality programs. Proudly, CACC has achieved various national levels of excellence for over 25 years.

CACC has had a positive impact on the community in more ways than one. Recently, the Business Economic and Community Outreach Network (BEACON) at Salisbury University completed a study that revealed that CACC has a $1.7 million annual economic impact for Talbot County alone. Regionally, it supports 96 jobs and has a $2.9 million annual impact on the economy.

In its 50 years, CACC has now educated and cared for more than 11,500 children. That equates to four generations having been served by the children’s centers. That’s reason to celebrate!

 Donations Make a Big Impact

CACC, a non-profit, provides affordable, educational, high quality, and nurturing childcare to all families. Cristy states, “We work to keep our rates some of the lowest in the county and for families that need additional financial assistance, we offer tuition assistance as well as accept Maryland Child Care Scholarships. On average, about 45% of our families (pre-COVID numbers) need some form of help and that equals about $100,000 a year.

Over the course of 50 years, CACC has given away $2.75 million in tuition assistance. Cristy says, “Fifty years is a major milestone and ultimately we wouldn’t be here or have been able to financially support our families without the steadfast support and generosity of our donors. Each year, the money we raise in our annual appeal is applied to tuition assistance. We are so fortunate to have such fabulous donors.”

Fundraising in 2020 has looked a lot different due to the pandemic. To put things in perspective:

$25 provides three learning games

$50 provides six books for a class library

$100 provides environmental education programming

$150 provides one week of summer camp for a child

$250 provides tuition assistance for eight weeks of after-school care

$500 provides tuition assistance for 4 weeks of preschool

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