Grand Beginnings celebrates 20th anniversary with declaration of “Big Year for Little Kids” | SkyHiNews.com

Grand Beginnings celebrates 20th anniversary with declaration of “Big Year for Little Kids”

Organization to raise awareness of early childhood services, create endowment

Commissioner Merrit Linke kicks off the “Big Year for Little Kids” by reading the resolution passed by the Board of County Commissioners at Granby Elementary School on Friday morning.
McKenna Harford / mharford@skyhinews.com

Sandwiched between a fire truck on display outside Granby Elementary School and the auditorium inside packed with information and activity booths, dozens of kids in bright orange backpacks, parents, teachers and community members gathered to proclaim this year the “Big Year for Little Kids.”

In conjunction with the 20th anniversary of Grand Beginnings, a local nonprofit focused on early childhood services, the Board of County Commissioners declared April 2019 to April 2020 the “Big Year for Little Kids,” which Commissioner Merrit Linke and Executive Director of Grand Beginnings Meagan Lokteff kicked off at the 18th annual Children’s Fair on Friday.

“We are just so excited about everything this county and this community has done for young children,” Lokteff said. “We’ll just really be working to bring awareness to early childhood over the next year.”

Linke said it was important for the county to support the local efforts to sustain and expand early childhood services for a number of reasons.

“I just think it’s part of our future,” he said. “We get caught up in the day-to-day stuff, but if we don’t prepare for the future then we’re losing. I think having well-educated, productive people in our society makes everybody better.”

The commissioner’s resolution declaring the “Big Year for Little Kids” acknowledges the critical role of early childhood programs in supporting health and development, as well as the role of policies and investment to ensure children are being supported and have access to services. The resolution also thanked families, teachers and professionals for their dedication.

Many programs that Grand Beginnings offers assist the mission to make services available and accessible, including vouchers to help families pay for childcare, working in partnership with West Grand School District to open a new daycare center in Kremmling and creating a literacy program with the libraries.

“What we’ve achieved is we have amazing quality programs in our county,” Lokteff said.

Thanks to the work of Grand Beginnings, Grand County is the only county in Colorado with all of the early childhood programs rated as high-quality and the programs aren’t the only distinguishing feature of Grand Beginnings’ work in the county.

Lokteff highlighted the organization’s recent efforts to increase the number of children receiving health and dental screenings.

“We are getting 70 to 90 percent of our children screened in the county, which national average is 30 or 40 percent, so that’s been a huge accomplishment,” she said.  

She said screenings will continue to be a focus throughout the “Big Year for Little Kids,” along with a spotlight on its early childhood mental health program. Grand Beginnings will also be working on creating an endowment fund to continue supporting the organization’s mission.

In her time in early childhood services, Lokteff said what has changed the most is the knowledge around early childhood education and needs, as well as the community’s understanding and engagement around the importance of these services.

“Seeing the community level of involvement and engagement and having all the commissioners understand what it means to support young children and families and understand how that supports the health and economics of their communities, I think that’s where we’ve come in 20 years,” Lokteff said. “I think that’s pretty incredible to see.”

In order to help raise that awareness and continue the conversation, Grand Beginnings will be doing several events throughout the year to celebrate, such as participating in the first High Note Thursday in Winter Park this June.


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