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Children and Friends Enrichment Center was organized in 1983 by Church Women United when they identified the need for good, quality childcare for working families living in the Swannanoa Valley. 

Now, as the Center approaches its 40th year, the need for good quality childcare for working families has never been greater. 

Waiting lists for Children and Friends and Verner Learning Center hover around 400 children constantly. In recent years, several child developments centers in Buncombe County have closed, creating an even more critical childcare shortage. This leaves families scrambling for safe, developmentally sound centers. 

Due to this shortage families living in Black Mountain have been forced to enroll their children in childcare centers in Asheville, while working in Black Mountain.

Children and Friends identified this growing shortage of quality childcare in 2016. 

Our current location can only serve 73 children. The center is housed in a building that was designed to be business center, but was adapted to be a child development center. 

Sadly, this building is wearing out and even sadder is the fact we cannot expand to meet growing needs of young, working families. Over the past three years we have considered many options for moving the center. 

We thought out of the box, seeking a safe and dependable facility in which to expand. Nothing fell into place. 

Our Board of Directors frequently says, “We do this for the children of the Valley.”

So, in thinking outside the box, it was with deep gratitude that we entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the Town of Black Mountain to lease property within Veterans Park for the construction of a new facility. 

What could be a more wonderful place in which children can grow and explore all that the Park has to offer?

This has been a long process. There were a series of public hearings held at the town hall and the public library for citizen input on the use of Veterans Park. 

Hearings and meetings started on June 12, 2017 and ended with Asheville Design Center’s presentation of a Master Plan for Veterans Park South and Children and Friends Enrichment Center on April 8, 2019. 

All stake holders and persons with interest in Veterans Park South were given opportunities to share their needs and vision for their use of the land.

Children and Friends has been planning and seeking funding to build the facility.

We are appreciative of the financial support of a $200,000 grant from Buncombe County Commissioners, $75,000 Cannon Foundation grant, generous support from the Black Mountain Kiwanis Club, Montreat Presbyterian Church, Black Mountain Rotary Club and individual donors.

At this point we can finally negotiate the terms of a lease with the Town of Black Mountain, as determined by The Memorandum of Understanding.

Why is it important that Children and Friends continue to be a leader in child care in Black Mountain? Children matter to Black Mountain. Young families matter to the economy, work force and vitality of our town. 

Affordable housing and quality childcare are essential to attracting families and businesses to relocate in eastern Buncombe County. Children and Friends wants to be part of the active solution to in meeting these needs for our community.

Children are our future and research shows the first 2,000 days of a child’s life are critical to a child’s future. 

Children need loving, safe and developmentally challenging environments in which to grow. If a child has a word deficiency at age 3, that child will likely have major reading delays in the third grade. 

There are many other research projects that confirm the importance of these early years in developing successful adult. Preparing children for the future and supporting young families is what Children and Friends is all about. 

So, when you consider this wonderful opportunity to relocate Children and Friends to Veterans Park and increase to 170 slots for children to be in our center, it is indeed for the children. 

Linda Hobson is the board chair for the Children and Friends Enrichment Center. 

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Read or Share this story: https://www.blackmountainnews.com/story/opinion/2019/07/17/daycare-facility-fills-critical-need-swannanoa-valley/1703723001/