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Children and Friends Enrichment Center to open with new name, location

Ty Roush
Black Mountain News
The Donald S. Collins Early Learning Center is scheduled to open Aug. 24.

BLACK MOUNTAIN - The Children and Friends Enrichment Center has found a new home and a new name.

Now the Donald S. Collins Early Enrichment Center, the day care was scheduled to finish a transition to a Montreat Road installation on Aug. 24. The center is a 10,000 square foot area behind the First Baptist Church of Black Mountain.

Former board chair Linda Hobson said the center's renaming in honor of former mayor Don Collins is in recognition of Collins' "incredible effort" helping local children.

Collins did not donate any money toward the development of the center, Hobson said, but "he has done so much for the children of this community."

Board member John Dewitt said that the new location was required to complement its waiting list and the previous building handling consistent flooding.

“It was just a big need (for the area),” Dewitt said. “That’s when we decided to raise the money and build this thing.”

The center holds a 15-year renewable lease with the church.

Development of the land, a playground, furniture and the center’s modular building, a combination of 14 separate trailers, cost just over $2 million.

Dewitt said that the center is extending its age range to kindergarten through second grade and will be able to hold 170 children.

This decision to allow students from kindergarten to second grade follows a Buncombe County Schools decision to use Plan B Beyond for K-8 learning. 

“Parents realized that their kids are going to be home on iPads for 12 hours a day,” Dewitt said. "So we're making that service available, and the school’s a block away. We've worked with the school, the curriculum, all of their stuff will be done right here.”

Under BCS’s plan, kindergarten through eighth-grade students will be divided into two groups for an orientation period. Beginning Aug. 24, all students will move into remote learning instruction for five weeks.

The center will also provide an afterschool service, Dewitt said. Students and staff will also follow CDC guidelines, including a mandated 6-foot separation between children.

The Donald S. Collins Early Learning Center is scheduled to open Aug. 24.

Each classroom will have an exit door to the outside, allowing parents to stop by and check on their children. The playground will include infant-specific equipment that allows for grabbing and pulling.

Hobson said that the center has had a lasting impact on the community.

“You’ll run into people all over town who, at some point, may have gone to Children and Friends,” Hobson said.

The Children and Friends Enrichment Center opened in 1979 by Church Women United after the organization recognized that Black Mountain required day care services for low-income families.

Church Women United is an organization representing Christian women of various dominations in the United States.

Hobson said the focus on providing day care is essential now with education restrictions.

“That was important for us, to be a service to our community,” Hobson said. “And this is another service to the community.”

Both Hobson and Dewitt say they see the center lasting for many years.

“It’s been in our community a long, long time, and a lot of people have a very special bond (with it),” Hobson said.