By Lena Scaff, Executive Director for Early Learning Centers
Twenty-eight years ago, I was going through a very nasty divorce. I had two little girls, Bailey, 19 months and Kelsey, 3 months. Up to this point, I had been a stay-at-home mom and had only lived in Lubbock a short time. I needed to find a job so I could support my children. This also meant, I needed childcare.
When I started looking for childcare, I quickly realized I didn’t just need one job. I needed two! One to support us, and the other to pay for the childcare. Then I found Early Learning Centers (ELC), a United Way Community Partner. At ELC the weekly tuition is based on your household income. This was a tremendous help to me and made childcare so much more affordable. Even better, the center did amazing work with my children. They were very scared the first day they started, as was I, but the teachers were so loving and compassionate.
After awhile it was suggested to me that maybe the kids were overly clingy, and I was given the number to Family Counseling Services, another United Way partner. The kids and I went to the appointment and the counselors observed me interacting with the kids and the kids playing together. They said yes, the kids were clingy but that was expected with what our family was going through. But they also suggested for me to keep coming back because I seemed very angry.
Yes, they were right. I was angry. Earlier that week I had received some bills from Las Vegas, NV. I had never been there and didn’t understand what they were about it. It turned out that this is where my husband had gone, and he was charging up all kinds of bills and having them sent to our house. I was referred to Legal Aid Society, another United Way partner. Legal Aid helped keep me from being responsible for any of the bills my husband was racking up.
Bailey and Kelsey continued at ELC until they aged out at 12 years old. They joined Girl Scouts, another United Way partner, I became a CPR/First Aid Instructor through the Red Cross, another United Way partner.
Because of the donations given all those years ago, my family was able to get back on our feet and move forward with productive lives. Bailey and Kelsey both graduated from Frenship High School and went on to graduate from college. Bailey is now the Texas Recruiter for Arizona State University, and Kelsey is a Doctor of Psychology, practicing in Anchorage, AK.
I have worked at Early Learning Centers for the last 28 years and see, on a regular basis, families that are in the same situation I was in all those years ago. It is so wonderful to know that I am part of a system that is helping to change peoples lives for the better – that is rising up together, so no one stands alone.