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Longtime Bellingham childcare center opens its doors in new space

Administrative assistant Hayley Horne gets a hug from Henry Bryant, 2, and William Bode, 22 months, while getting ready to go outside at the new Generations Early Learning & Family Center at the Mt. Baker Care Center in Bellingham Thursday morning, Feb. 19, 2015. Formerly known as St. Francis Childcare, the center opened in its new space this week.
Administrative assistant Hayley Horne gets a hug from Henry Bryant, 2, and William Bode, 22 months, while getting ready to go outside at the new Generations Early Learning & Family Center at the Mt. Baker Care Center in Bellingham Thursday morning, Feb. 19, 2015. Formerly known as St. Francis Childcare, the center opened in its new space this week. The Bellingham Herald

Generations opened its larger child care at Mt. Baker Care Center on Tuesday, Feb. 17, thanks to a fundraising push and volunteer labor for the project.

Formerly known as St. Francis Childcare, the center will have an open house Saturday, Feb. 21, for its new 7,000-square-foot home on Connelly Avenue. Snacks will be offered, and staff will be on hand.

“It’s just a way to show people our new center,” Executive Director Heidi Bugbee said of Generations Early Learning & Family Center.

The center had been at its original location on Squalicum Parkway for 20 years before moving across town. The move included a name change, although the nonprofit St. Francis Foundation continues to run the center.

Project costs include:

• $200,000 to renovate its space in an unused part of Mt. Baker Care Center.



• $50,000 for a wheelchair-accessible ramp for disabled and special needs children.



•  $200,000 for playground and classroom equipment and supplies.



To help pay for the project, the childcare and preschool center received a $250,000 loan from Peoples Bank and $50,000 from Avamere Health Services, which owns St. Francis of Bellingham at 3121 Squalicum Parkway — the center’s previous home. The center also raised $100,000, and was recently awarded $50,000 from Chuckanut Health Foundation to go toward outside projects including a playground for the children.

“We’ve gotten amazingly far,” Bugbee said.

Community help included volunteer labor for landscaping and moving, as well as money in large and small amounts — or as Bugbee put it, “just all hands on deck.”

Former graduates of the program helped, too. In one case, a child who is now a second-grader at Columbia Elementary School sent in $9.08. Another child donated change from a lemonade stand.

Generations will continue to focus on interactions between children and the residents of Mt. Baker Care Center and Summit Place Assisted Living.

Nearly three decades ago, St. Francis Childcare pioneered a program in which the elderly and children play and learn together, according to Bugbee.

That approach earned it a lot of attention and press coverage, including a story in People magazine.

IF YOU GO

What: Open house for Generations Early Learning & Family Center, which was previously known as St. Francis Childcare.

When: 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 21.

Where: 2901 Connelly Ave., B101, in Bellingham.

To learn more and to help: intergenchildcare.com, 360-752-6336, or heidi@intergenchildcare.com.

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