Revitalization efforts in Orlando's West Lakes area will receive a major boost from a new partnership between the Florida Hospital Foundation and the Bethesda-based Bainum Family Foundation. The Bainum Family Foundation will provide funding of $12.75 million over 10 years ($7.75 million for operations and $5 million for construction) to help establish an early learning center serving approximately 150 infants and toddlers at a new facility to be built on 1.3 acres of vacant land near Orange Center Elementary School.
This investment follows construction of a brand new $40 million, 200-unit, mixed-income apartment home community (Pendana at West Lakes) and complements plans to develop 120 affordable, senior apartment homes, a community health and wellness center, and a new Boys and Girls Club in the West Lakes area, which is adjacent to downtown Orlando and home to the Camping World Stadium complex, where the Citrus Bowl is played. It's all part of a broad effort led by LIFT Orlando to revitalize the neighborhood by creating partnerships that drive investments focused on mixed-income housing, cradle-to-career education, community health and wellness, and long-term economic viability.
'Our organizations have a shared interest in providing services and supports to low-income communities to create opportunity and help children and families thrive,' says David Daniels, vice president of operations and organizational effectiveness for the Bainum Family Foundation. 'This partnership also leverages our Foundation's knowledge and work in creating high-quality early learning programs for infants and toddlers to support their cognitive, physical and social-emotional development as well as overall family well-being.'
The Bainum Family Foundation will provide technical assistance for the design, operations, governance and ongoing monitoring and evaluation of the early learning center, as well as financing for the facility's design, construction and operations. Work on the early learning center began in May with preliminary design efforts. The center is expected to open in August 2019.
'LIFT Orlando's mission perfectly complements that of Florida Hospital, where we focus on bringing health and wellness to the whole community,' said Daryl Tol, president and CEO of Florida Hospital and a board member of LIFT. 'Providing access to early childhood programs is a great way to do that, and we're proud to support the investments being made to transform the communities of West Lakes.'
'Education is key,' says West Lakes resident Charlene Caines. 'Being a single mom of four boys, I've always emphasized getting a quality education because learning is knowledge. I feel that early childhood learning centers are important components of every community, and every child deserves the right to a good, quality education.'
The Bainum Family Foundation is making similar investments in high-quality early learning in Washington, D.C., with a focus on the city's Wards 7 and 8, where nearly 90 percent of infants and toddlers grow up in areas of concentrated poverty.
'The first three years of a child's life shape every year afterward,' says Barbara Bainum, LCSW-C, chair of the board, CEO and president of the Bainum Family Foundation. 'This unique developmental window, when 85 percent of brain growth occurs, lays the foundation for all future learning, behavior and health, putting a child on a trajectory toward success in school and life or, in too many cases, a future in which the child does not fulfill his or her full potential.'
This is why the Foundation has made early learning one of its primary focus areas. 'High-quality early learning is critical to a child's healthy development and long-term well-being, but children living in poverty often don't have access to the same supports and resources as their counterparts in more affluent neighborhoods,' Bainum says. 'We are thrilled to be partnering with Florida Hospital Foundation and LIFT Orlando to create this wonderful new early learning center to benefit generations of children and families in the West Lakes community.'
Daniels notes that the Foundation hopes the partnership can become a model for other faith-based hospitals and health systems interested in supporting early learning as part of revitalization efforts in their own communities.