First Things First

The work never stops for local childhood advocacy groups. On April 16, as part of the Week of the Young Child, a new center will open in the Middlesboro Mall called First Things First – Center for Early Childhood Resources.

First Things First is being labelled as the new home for The Children’s Reading Foundation of Appalachia – Kentucky, E-CATCH of Bell County, Wear the Cape Volunteer Center, and Live What You Learn Training Center.

This location is the culmination of the collaborative work of local and regional early childhood organizations’ services, professionals, volunteers, and financial support from businesses around the community. The center will occupy the old Bookland space in the mall, offering over 4,000 square feet of space.

Aside from housing the aforementioned entities under one roof, the center will also work as a think tank for area leaders that will provide trainings, support groups, special programs and events as well as resource materials.

“I will be surveying early childhood professionals and families this summer in order to develop a training calendar for Live What You Learn Training Center, and we will likely produce a quarterly training calendar beginning in August. Some of the E-CATCH partners who will be providing training include The Children’s Reading Foundation, The Berea Regional Training Center, Cumberland River Early Childhood Mental Health, and my agency, Eastern Kentucky Child Care Coalition, or EKCCC. Be assured, there will be a lot of fun, hands-on activities for our area caregivers and families so they can provide engaging enrichment for their little learners! We plan to get the new school year off to a great start at First Things First,” said Karen Thompson, director of training at Eastern Kentucky Child Care Coalition.

Debbie Knuckles, of the Children’s Reading Foundation of Appalachia, stated, “While many local residents are familiar with the work, mission and programs of The Children’s Reading Foundation and E-CATCH, the center will also be the home of a new approach and infrastructure for our area volunteer programs. Wear the Cape Volunteer Center will provide a variety of opportunities for all of our area clubs, organizations and individuals who need or want to provide volunteer work.”

“At the same time, it will provide an easily accessible location and procedure for locating volunteers when schools, churches, or area programs have projects or work for volunteers. Of course, the primary goal of Wear the Cape will be to provide volunteer work that will benefit young children — their education and well-being.”