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Child care provider wins Playlab grant

MIDDLEBURY — Mary Cram has long been looking to upgrade the small play structure at the Addison County Parent-Child Center’s Playlab. Putting an idea down on paper was pretty easy, but getting the paper money to put the idea into motion has been tough.
Cram got a nice assist last week, however, with news that her play structure design had won a $500 grant award through the Terri Lynne Lokoff Child Care Foundation (TLLCCF). Along with the grant, Cram — a child care provider and parent educator with the parent-child center — will receive $500 for her effort and TLLCCF’s 2011 National Child Care Teacher Award for the state of Vermont at the foundation’s King of Prussia, Pa., headquarters on April 14.
“I was pretty shocked,” Cram said of her reaction to receiving the award and grant. “It was something I did sort of on a whim.”
Cram explained that the TLLCCF sent applications to child care centers throughout the country, soliciting entries for “an enhancement project that illustrates the educational, social and emotional benefits for the children in their care.”
Cram submitted an essay, some letters of reference, and her project concept, which involves a 17-foot-by-12-foot play structure that incorporates stairs, tunnels, a swing, a slide and a rock climbing wall, among other things. The structure is to be nestled into a corner of the parent-child center’s Playlab, located at the Patricia A. Hannaford Career Center. The Playlab program serves 15 children ages 2 and 3.
“I had to come up with a project specific to my space and how I would implement it,” Cram said. While it would seem rudimentary, Cram’s play structure provides for activities that help develop young children’s motor skills, sensory needs and social interaction abilities.
All of the applicants’ proposals were reviewed and scored by a committee of national early childhood educators and experts. The TLLCCF picked one winner from each of the 50 states.
The TLLCCF is a nonprofit, nonsectarian organization established in 1987 in memory of Terri Lynne Lokoff, a devoted child care teacher. The foundation has dedicated its resources to improving the quality of child care and supporting and elevating the status of child care teachers and providers.
Winning the grant was perhaps the easiest part for Cram. She will now have to marshal additional resources and volunteer help to build the project by the end of this July, a timetable prescribed by the TLLCCF.
Fortunately, Cram and her colleagues have found an expert to take the project to a more detailed design at no charge.
“We are hoping to work with our spouses and people that we know who are ‘crafty’ to help us out either with materials or building the structure,” Cram said. Anyone able to lend a hand should call the parent-child center at 388-3171.
Cram is optimistic she and her colleagues will meet the July deadline. In the meantime, she is enjoying some nice recognition that has included a letter of congratulations from Gov. Peter Shumlin.
“It has been fun and I think it is an incentive to put myself out there a little bit more for things that come up in the future,” Cram said.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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