MIPA is dedicated to fundraising to support the education and well-being of preschool-aged children on Mercer Island. We believe that every dollar raised should go directly back into supporting and serving our own community.
Since the early 1990’s, MIPA has donated annual funds to assist low-income Mercer Island families with preschool tuition. At that time, MIPA partnered with Mercer Island Youth & Family Services (MIYFS) to help these families. While MIPA contributed monies to assist with scholarships, MIYFS contributed social work expertise as well as screening to determine eligibility of families. Criteria was agreed upon and as a result of the partnership, these families received more resources from the County and Washington State. In addition, the funding availability was promoted throughout the Mercer Island community and over the years, the partnership between both organizations has benefited the community and the families who have received this support.
As we all know, preschool fees have increased substantially during the last decade. Though MIPA has increased its funding over the years, it has not been able to keep up with the cost of living. The number of children funded has always ranged between 5 and 7, yet the dollar amount needed to help support them has grown with the cost of tuition. Please keep in mind that these families rarely qualify for any Washington State assistance other than medical coupons. They barely earn enough to get by, usually earning a little over the amount that would qualify them for the meager services available anyway. Bare economic survival is a difficult way to live day in and day out.
In most cases, the households MIPA serves fall into three broad descriptive categories. In all cases at least one parent is employed. So that you will know where your contributions are going, we want to acquaint you with these families and their circumstances. The following are composites – those whom we regularly serve with MIPA tuition.
This family is headed by a single parent, usually a mom. She is in her early 30’s, works full time or is enrolled in school and works part time. She has two children – one in elementary school and one who is of preschool age. Mom received no child support, either because her spouse has recently died or because she is the recent victim of domestic violence and her spouse has abandoned the family. If the spouse has abandoned the family, the State has been unable to locate him to enforce child support. If the spouse has died, the family was unprepared financially and the mom is dealing with grief, scrambling for work, and comforting her children who have also experienced profound loss. Everyone in this family is under terrific stress no matter what the circumstances and mom does not have the income to pay for part or full-time tuition for a preschool. The youngest needs the care, skills, play, and fun that a preschool provides, and mom cannot stay at home to provide care regardless: she must be a work or at school in a full-time capacity. MIPA has assisted families like this on an annual basis, sometimes more than one family receiving funding falls into category number one.
The second family is one that has resided on Mercer Island for several years. The family is compromised of two or more children. One parent is unable to work due to serious illness. The family is dependent on one income and is often shouldered with extra medical bills, co-pays, and the cost of numerous prescriptions. The parent at home is unable to provide full-time care for the youngest child. The parent needs respite from the child and the child needs time away from the home. Although the ill parent tries to assist with responsibilities around the house as much as possible, the bulk of the responsibilities falls on the employed partner. The family is overwhelmed, lives paycheck to paycheck, and lives in constant fear that the condition of the parent who is ill may grow worse. Like Family #1, MIPA assists families such as this annually and almost every year one family it serves falls into this category.
Both the parents in this family were born outside the US and were not raised speaking English. One parent is more fluent than the other but still has difficulty speaking and understanding English. One or both parents work in the sub economy even though they retain green cards or are now US citizens. They are self employed in menial jobs and often have no medical insurance or benefits of any kind. Their youngest child has limited exposure to the English language and American customs. The parents cannot afford preschool yet realize without this opportunity their child will not be able to adapt easily once he or she starts kindergarten. The family is concerned about their child’s future and well-being because of the limitations experienced in the home. Likes families one and two, this family is overwhelmed financially, but children in these circumstances face their own unique challenges. Opportunities for exposure to the American culture are limited and the older the child gets, the harder it may be for the child to adapt. The preschool experience in cases like this is life changing – it can assist in the avoidance of high anxiety, learning difficulties, and self-esteem issues.
Every year, MIPA donates $11,000 to Mercer Island Youth & Family Services to help families in need.
Letter from MIYFS:
August 7, 2008
Jamie Shea and Becky Froggatt, Co-Presidents
Mercer Island Preschool Association
PO Box 464
Mercer Island, WA 98040
Dear Jamie and Becky:
Please accept my appreciation for the fundraising efforts of the Mercer Island Preschool Association and your recent gift of $8,000 to fund the preschool scholarship fund for the 2008-09 school year administered by Mercer Island Youth and Family Services.
As the Family Assistance Coordinator, I personally speak to the families who are helped by your efforts. I know it makes a difference in their children’s lives to be able to attend preschool.
As the cost of quality preschool goes up and the economy slows, it is especially hard to make ends meet for families living well below the state median. It is often hard to pay for basic expenses; as a result, the opportunity to send children to preschool seems out of reach. Due to the hard work and generosity of your members, these children start out with the advantage of an early education.
Your organization is truly living the philosophy that “it takes a village to raise a child.” All Mercer Island children benefit when surrounded by caring adults with this attitude.
Thank you again on behalf of all the families who will be helped by your gift.
Cheryl R. Manriquez, B.S.W.
Family Assistance and Employment Coordinator
Mercer Island Youth and Family Services