Governor Tom Wolf held a press conference at the Gilson Child Development Center in Erie on Tuesday, October 12, to announce a $30 million increase in state funding to expand early childhood learning across the state, impacting more than 3,000 children in the upcoming school year. The Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) recommended Child Development Centers, Inc. (CDC) as an appropriate host for Governor Wolf’s press conference, as the regional nonprofit organization provides child care and early childhood education for almost 1,900 children across 14 centers in Erie, Crawford and Venango counties through the federal Head Start, Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts and other programs. Recently, CDC earned an additional 40 Pre-K Counts expansion slots that have been designated for Erie County.
CDC Chief Executive Officer Rina Irwin hosted a center tour and welcomed Governor Wolf into a preschool classroom, where several young learners greeted him with smiles and high fives. The newly renovated Gilson center, which closely resembles CDC’s other locations, opened its doors in early July, offering children on Erie’s east side 11 bright and spacious classrooms, impactful curriculum, a fully stocked kitchen, and a dedicated staff eager to equip each child with vital skills for academic achievement and a love for learning. The 16,000 square foot facility impressed Governor Wolf, who said that more early education centers like this one are needed across the commonwealth.
Governor Wolf also discussed the current economic climate and how it will impact each parent’s ability to reenter the workforce. “Families are finding it very hard to get child care. Early childhood education is a barrier to getting ourselves back on economic track, and part of the reason I think is because we don’t provide enough resources like CDC,” he said. Governor Wolf also announced that this year, the state will use an additional $655 million from the American Rescue Plan to aid in this initiative.
Erie businessman Nick Scott, Jr., further emphasized the importance of investing in quality child care and early childhood education and voiced his impression of CDC’s newest center. “This is absolutely incredible, and it needs to be available to every child,” he expressed. “We just have to make sure that Harrisburg and the federal government continue to fund programs like this and facilities like this. Our kids deserve it, and Erie deserves it.”
CDC, along with several other certified child care facilities, has struggled to persevere throughout the economic hardships associated with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. “As Child Development Centers, Inc. remains committed to removing barriers between families and impactful care and education for their children, challenges associated with the threat of COVID-19 initially posed a financial hurdle in the advancement of our mission,” CDC CEO Rina Irwin said. “The early learning funding has enabled CDC to seamlessly persevere throughout the ongoing pandemic, immensely impacting our ability to serve families that rely on our programs. This support has allowed us to keep our doors open to families during times of uncertainty, ensure and improve the health and safety of our centers for children and staff, and maintain the employment of our tenacious employees.”
While CDC has offered its services to families for 52 years across northwestern Pennsylvania, this is the first visit the organization received from a state governor. From its modest beginning in the homes of “day care mothers” in 1969, CDC has grown into a sizeable well-respected enterprise, eager to continue its expansion to positively impact more children and their families. Its newest location, the Downtown Child Development Center, will open next year, offering tuition-based enrollments for about 130 infants, toddlers and preschool-aged children.
This article was published in the Venango Chamber’s November 2021 VenangoWorks! Newsletter.