WORDS: Katelyn Disbro
At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Early Learning Coalition of Manatee County (ELC) wanted to do everything they could to support their ‘Untold First Responders’ – childcare providers who were open every day during this health crisis looking after and continuing to educate our local children!
To help and support them, the ELC procured paper products, cleaning supplies, hand sanitizers, and much more to distribute to them at no cost. With cleaning products in short supply, CEO Paul Sharff investigated the idea of using pool grade chlorine to mix with water to create gallons of bleach for providers to use in their centers to keep their sites clean and germ-free.
The supplies were picked up by providers at the ELC office, as staff worked hard to get the cleaning packages ready. A huge thank you is owed to Dakin Dairy Farms, who generously donated 250 new gallon milk jugs to use for the mixing process that comes complete with instructions from the Florida Department of Health (DOH). The pool chlorine was provided at cost by Galaxy Pools. Hand-made masks also came from Manatee County Sheriff’s Office.
ELC staff also went into the community weekly to help distribute free family meals that were donated by Feeding Tampa Bay and distributed on Tuesdays and Thursdays at different Title 1 school sites throughout the county.
Books were also distributed four days a week to children encouraging the importance of reading as so much learning became virtual and at home. Both the children and parents were excited to receive free books and would even start to follow wherever the ELC STEAM Machine was going. By the end of June, there was a total of 9000 children books and 15,000 family meals distributed in Manatee County.