School Needs A Village

By Patrick Cronin

Hampton Union, Tuesday, June 29, 2004

The Hampton Child and Family Program Village Pre School may be forced to close; it needs to raise $20,000 by Aug. 1. At right is School Director Virginia Bridle. With her are teachers Rhonda Murray, left and Angie Twombly. Behind them are Tegan Kelly, Lauren Twombly and Billy Murray.

HAMPTON - The Village Preschool, which offers affordable preschool for all family incomes in Hampton, may be forced to close its doors for good. "We are going to try our best to save the school," said Ginny Bridle, the school’s executive director. "We all have the hope and determination to make this happen."

The school’s board of directors said if the school doesn’t raise $20,000 by July 15, then it will have no choice but to close the school for good.

Treasurer Brad Jacobson informed board members last Wednesday that the nonprofit school is facing an emergency situation financially.

"The treasurer felt very uncomfortable going forward with the balance that we have," said Bridle.

The reason for the shortage of funds is because donations are down despite an increased demand of financial assistance for families who otherwise couldn’t afford to send their child to a preschool.

Bridle said the school’s motto is that it takes a village to raise a child.

Now, staff members and the school are looking toward the village to save the school from demise.

"I don’t want people to look at $20,000 and say 'gee if I send in a $25 contribution it won’t be enough,’" said Bridle. "Village Preschool is founded on the thought it takes a village to raise a child. We’ve been a part of that village and now we’re asking the village to help us."

Bridle said if the school is forced to close its doors, there will be many children for whom preschool will not be an option owing to family financial situations.

Hampton Head Start takes a total of 17 children from the Hampton, North Hampton and Seabrook areas.

The state provides childcare assistance only for parents who make less than $8 an hour, Bridle said.

Village Preschool is the only preschool in the area to offer scholarship assistance to families earning between $8 and $10 an hour, Bridle said. It also provides preschool assistance to lower income families when Head Start is full.

"Many families asked for scholarship assistance this year," said Bridle. "Village Preschool was there so their child could have a preschool experience."

The school was founded in 1994.

"We wanted to develop a preschool that would be available for all children in Hampton regardless of the parents’ ability to pay," said Bridle.

In the last 10 years, Village Preschool has served more than 500 children. More than 300 of those children received scholarship assistance, Bridle said.

"This isn’t the poverty kids nursery school," Bridle said. "We will service anybody. "But 10 percent of our families are homeless. The real positive thing about this place is that if you walked into our program, you wouldn’t be able to tell who was on scholarship and who was not.

"Everyone pays something," said Bridle. "No one comes for free. Some people who can’t afford to pay anything are required to donate time to our program. In the 10 years of operation we have never turned down a child for social, economic or behavioral issues."

The school was also the recipient of the state’s 2004 Division of Children, Youth & Family Exemplary Leadership and Service Award.

Bridle said closing the school is not an option and she will do anything in her power to raise the necessary funds to keep the school alive.

"The community has been good in the past, but the economic times have changed," said Bridle.

Bridle said her goal is to have 100 residents in the community donate $50. She would like to see 10 businesses step up to the plate and donate $1,000 and three corporations donate $1,600.

"We need help," Bridle said. "If we don’t get it, we will be forced to close our doors and nobody here wants to see that happen."