First Step to turn earth for new facility

First Step Family Support Center, a United Way partner agency, will hold its official public groundbreaking ceremony for its new facility at 11 a.m. Tuesday, April 14, at 323 E. Sixth St., Port Angeles.

The current year will mark one of significant growth for First Step, its clients and the community.

The retirement of a loan on the First Step facility (325 E. Sixth St., Port Angeles) and the subsequent purchase of the adjacent lot (323 E. Sixth St.) have presented a tremendous opportunity for the agency to increase its capacity to provide for the healthy development of families and children in the community.

The groundbreaking will celebrate major construction on the new 4,174-square-foot community services facility. The expansion will feature a much-needed infant and toddler child care/early learning center, parent meeting and training rooms, a family reading and literacy center, a kitchen and confidential counseling offices.

This will increase the agency's capacity substantially to expand current programs and to initiate new ones the community has identified as fundamental. Participants in Tuesday's groundbreaking include Rep. Norm Dicks; USDA Rural Development; First Federal; the Washington State Department of Community, Trade & Economic Development (CTED); the Whatton Family Fund and many others. Immediately following the groundbreaking, a celebration barbecue will be held.

Facility funders include the First Step board of directors, CTED, the Medina Foundation, the Norcliffe Foundation, the D.V. and Ida J. McEachern Charitable Trust, the Seattle Foundation-Benjamin Phillips Memorial Fund, the USDA Rural Development Childcare Program, First Federal, the Whatton Family Fund, the Albert Haller Foundation, the Crow Foundation, Safeco Insurance, Nippon Paper Industries-USA Co. Ltd., and other local businesses.

The project also is supported by contributions from countless individuals and local service clubs. In addition, the agency's recent "Midnight in Paris" fundraising gala raised more than $32,000 to be used for the facility. Finally, during the groundbreaking, Aglazing Art Studios will initiate the sale of First Step logo tiles to be painted by purchasers and placed inside and outside the new facility. Tiles are available for $10 and $25 and all proceeds will benefit the new facility. For those unable to attend the groundbreaking, tiles can be purchased by calling Aglazing Art at 477-9957.

The project's architect is Lindberg & Smith Architects (Port Angeles) and the general contractor is Hoch Construction, Inc. (Port Angeles). The facility is expected to be completed in November with full occupancy expected in December.

The agency has provided support and education services to thousands of local families as part of the agency mission to promote the successful development of children and parents in low-income families for more than 30 years. First Step believes parents are critical to young children as they are their child's protectors, first teachers and emotional home.

First Step delivers a vast array of services to meet the needs of today's rural community.

First Step's programs and services include maternity support services, infant case management, drop-in centers, peer mentoring programs (teen parents), the Parents As Teachers Home Visiting Program, the Readiness to Learn Program, the Parent-Child Assistance Program, support groups (Postpartum Depression, Choosing Healthy Relationships, Father's Support), vocational counseling, parenting classes, a smoking cessation program and the First Books Program.

The agency's response to community need, coupled with solid follow through on its commitments, has garnered First Step a reputation of excellence locally, statewide and nationally.

In 1997, Gov. Gary Locke honored First Step with the Governor's Child Abuse Prevention Award naming First Step "Best Community Program."

The agency was named the 2008 recipient of the Children's Trust Foundation's Janet Miller Award For Excellence in Family Support.

First Step's services improve long-term social outcomes of low-income families with small children by providing a safe venue where they can build positive social support systems while gaining needed tools for thoughtful parenting.

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