Wednesday March 20, 2013

Our corner of Vermont is blessed to have so many non-profit organizations dedicated to so many causes. Sure, it makes fundraising a little more challenging, but is also means that local people have access to an abundance of services and resources.

Some of those organizations meet the needs of children and, while it may not be fair to single out one particular group, I have been impressed with the work that goes on at the KidsPLAYce on Elliot Street in Brattleboro. This is not to mean their work is any more important than all of the other organizations that serve youth, but it is a testimonial to the fact that the work of all of the organizations is synergistic, no matter how closely together they work.

Elizabeth Johnson has been the executive director of KidsPLAYce for almost two years and she is always pushing to expand the scope of their offerings. That requires not only a constant flow of money, but also a dedicated group of volunteers and board members.

Currently the board is comprised of Leland Smith, Tim Ellis and Daisy Frederick and, because Johnson has such big plans, it will require having a larger board. They have one two-hour meeting a month. Ideally they are looking for people with a background in education or science, as well as people who have board experience.

Johnson said that she is working to develop interactive exhibits at the Elliot Street location below the Hotel Pharmacy.


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She has an overall theme of a space ship that she said will guide future development.

In order for her vision to become reality it will require help from local community volunteers. Those volunteers would hopefully have skills that would help to provide programs in early literacy and "fun with math," according to Johnson.

KidsPLAYce has always relied on volunteers to maintain the organization's vitality and Johnson said that continues to be true as she tries to move things to the next level. That next level as she describes it is "To develop KidsPLAYce and move it to a handicap accessible place and to be open all year round. We want KidsPLAYce to be recognized as a place for fun, hands-on learning."

Then there is the constant fundraising that dominates the work of any non-profit. The biggest fundraiser for KidsPLAYce is their July presentation of Circus Smirkus. It will be held once again on the grounds of the Vermont Agricultural Business Center in Brattleboro on July 16-17. The theme this year is The Wizard of Oz and KidsPLAYce is already recruiting sponsors and volunteers.

Tonight, Wednesday, March 20 from 5 to 10 p.m., at the 99 Restaurant on Putney Road, 15 percent of the guest check will be donated to the KidsPLAYce. In order to make the donation you need to stop in at the KidsPLAYce and pick up a coupon for the event being called "Dining For A Cause."

Last Friday, when I stopped in to the KidsPLAYce to talk to Johnson I felt an incredible burst of energy. Children were everywhere doing what children do, having fun. Parents were smiling. That's worth a lot in a world where having fun seems to be something that we all have to work too hard to achieve.

If we can give children the freedom to be children with the help of any organization then it is worth a lot more than money. But, it takes money for the magic to happen.

If you want more information about joining the KidsPLAYce board or becoming a volunteer, contact them at 254-5212 or kidsplaycevt@gmail.com.

Richard Davis is a registered nurse and executive director of Vermont Citizens Campaign for Health. He writes from Guilford and welcomes comments at rbdav@comcast.net.