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First Teacher stays afloat on stimulus $s

Something is better than nothing, Cynthia Martin says.

As executive director of First Teacher and its parent company, Parenting Matters, Martin said more than $30,000 in funding was cut from the program.

Severe cuts in Sequim and Port Angeles school districts forced officials to reduce specific programs, but available federal stimulus money provides the opportunity to reinstate lost funds.

"Any kind of reinstatement is a big help," Martin said.

"It makes my job more flexible for 'all' the things we're doing daily."

The Sequim and Port Angeles school districts each have recommitted $10,000 into First Teacher.

Sequim School District Superintendent Bill Bentley said they haven't made a final decision about where the money could go for the program.

"Obviously, the amount of money we are able to put back in is not as much as previously," he said.

"The bottom line is that however it is used, it's meant to help the program."



History of

First Teacher

First Teacher began 19 years ago with Martin and volunteers sending out one newsletter to the community before expanding to 10 different monthly newsletters for age groups beginning at birth. First Teacher last year sent out 11,000 bilingual newsletters educating parents about their child and his/her development and age.

Development cards, a quick fact sheet on a child's particular age, are also distributed.

Through these newsletters, Martin feels First Teacher has contributed to children in Clallam County in several ways.

"We've brought in over $1 million in different capacities to the school districts," she said.

Through Martin writing grants and receiving donations, First Teacher has brought parenting education, parental resources, a large parenting library and a new playground at Sequim Community School to Sequim.

She applies for grants often, but it takes time to be approved and for monies to be received.

That's why Martin stresses the importance of their Parenting Matters Foundation Dinner.



Benefit Dinner

At 5:30 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 22, at the Sequim Boys and Girls Club, the foundation will serve a gourmet meal. Betty Hyde, head of early learning in Washington, will speak.

Martin said the event will raise money through ticket sales, donations and bids on auction items. "It's a fundraiser, so yes, we are going to ask for money," Martin said.

Each year, a family's use of First Teacher's resources costs $35.

Money from the dinner goes into First Teacher's general contingency fund for newsletters, development cards and staffing.

"We have to raise about $50,000 just for the September 2009, to August 2010 school year," Martin said.

"We've been successful in the past, and I feel like it's going to happen somehow."

For dinner reservations call 681-2250 or visit www.

parentingmatters.org.

Higher calling

Sequim school board member Bev Horan has come up with a unique way to support First Teacher through her church, Dungeness Valley Lutheran.

As a council member there, she and others brainstormed how they could further their outreach in the community.

"I asked, 'how can we use this opportunity of financial problems to educate our communities on how important children ages birth to 5 are?'" Horan said.

Church members then issued a challenge to all churches in Sequim to set aside a Sunday to donate money towards the program.

Dungeness Valley Lutheran has set aside the last Sunday of September for tithing toward the program.

So far, Trinity United Methodist Church has set aside a Sunday to donate to First Teacher and other local charities, Horan said.

Dungeness Valley Lutheran Church members will be sending out reminder cards in the coming weeks for churches to participate.

Reach Matthew Nash at mnash@sequimgazette.com.



Parenting Matters

Foundation Dinner

What: "It takes a Village"

Who: Dr. Betty Hyde, director of the Washington State Department of Early Learning, speaker

When: Doors open at 5:30 p.m., dinner at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 22

Where: Sequim Boys and Girls Club, 400 W. Fir St., Sequim

How much: $45 per person, reservations due today, Aug. 12. Call 681-2250 or visit www.parentingmatters.org

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