Augusta center for kids with special needs more than 80 percent of the way toward fundraising goal

AUGUSTA -– Children’s Center, an early childhood intervention and family support services organization for children with special needs, has launched the public phase of its capital campaign, inviting the public to help close the gap and make the project a reality. Having raised more than 80 percent of its goal of $5 million to expand its primary location in Augusta in order to meet demand, officials at the Children’s Center say that the time is now.

“This capital campaign has been humbling and heartwarming,” said Jeff Johnson, Children’s Center executive director. “We have seen major gifts come in from people and organizations who recognize the importance of having services available to kids with special needs during their earliest years. Right now, we have a waiting list of more than 100 kids whose developmental window of opportunity is closing while they wait for an appropriate place to learn and grow. That’s what we’re trying to fix with this expansion – we’re addressing the waiting list for specialized services and giving more kids in Central Maine more opportunities in life.”

The public phase of the campaign was launched in late October during a virtual meeting. A video featuring supporters and family testimonials that outline the need was unveiled during the virtual launch, and is available here: https://youtu.be/C_BWdvQ-yzs.

Children’s Center will expand its current Augusta facility by 14,000 square feet, while renovating 5,000 square feet of existing space. The expansion will more than double the space and provide additional classrooms, specialized service areas and administrative space. The expansion will also create additional gross motor space, a stimulation-sensitive entrance and lobby, solar installation for improved energy efficiency and a reduced carbon footprint, and the state’s only Snoezelen Room. Ground should be broken on the expansion this spring.

“Depending on the child, the Children’s Center can mean the difference between them walking, talking, learning to chew and swallow, or tolerating physical contact enough for a parent to hug them. Imagine not being able to hug your child or grandchildren to comfort them or communicate safety and love. It’s heart wrenching,” said Johnson. “The specialized services we offer help children understand and express their needs, wants and emotions. All these kids deserve an opportunity to explore and reach their potential. With a little help from the Center, they get that.” 

After announcements over the past few weeks including $100,000 from both the Davis Family Foundation and Pine State Trading Co., and a $1 million matching grant challenge from the Harold Alfond Foundation in tribute to David and Kaye Flanagan, the Children’s Center has raised $4.3 million toward the $5 million goal. Until now, the campaign has focused on major gifts to bring the organization closer to the finish line. While pursuing major gifts will continue to be a part of the strategy, Children’s Center officials are optimistic that the community as a whole will help raise the remaining $700,000 to make the expansion a reality.

“The $1,000,000 Harold Alfond Foundation matching grant challenge is a tremendous opportunity for people to make their own gift more meaningful,” said Johnson. “That essentially means that any gift is worth double thanks to the match from the Harold Alfond Foundation. We expect that to have a tremendous impact in the final stretch of our fundraising efforts. We’ve got $700,000 left to raise to make enough room for the kids in our community who need us. We’ve gotten to $4.3 million through large gifts. This next phase relies on a lot of people giving a little bit to get us to our goal. I’m confident this community will continue to lean in to give these children their best chance in life.”

During the public phase of the capital campaign, community members may donate on the campaign website, www.AChampionInEveryChild.org. Donations of any size are accepted, as are donations from businesses and organizations. Contact information is available on the website for any questions that might arise in the donation process. Donations qualifying for the match from the Harold Alfond Foundation include new donations and accelerated payments of existing, long-term pledges. Payments currently scheduled for 2024 or 2025 that are paid, in part or in full, by Dec. 31, 2023, will leverage matching dollars.

Children’s Center provides center-based services for children ages six weeks to six years old and outpatient services, including occupational therapy, speech therapy, outpatient mental health for children and families, and case management support to kids up to age 21. Annually, the Center serves more than 250 children between its four sites: Augusta, Farmington, Skowhegan and Waterville. All sites have waiting lists with Augusta’s being the largest at more than 100 children in need of center-based or outpatient services at any given time. 

Children’s Center offerings cover a wide range of services, including specialized programming for children with autism, complex medical needs and global delays; behavioral day treatment for children with a history of trauma, emotional regulation and mental health needs; and a recently established fully accredited Special Purpose Private School, allowing children in need of a specialized environment to continue learning at Children’s Center for their kindergarten year.

Children’s Center has served the Greater Augusta Area since 1967 as Mid-State United Cerebral Palsy, Inc. After several moves, the doors to the current building opened in December of 1978. The building, located on the corner of Alden Avenue and Worcester Street in Augusta, was expanded in 2001, increasing its capacity to 60 center-based children.

More details about the campaign, and opportunities to donate can be found at www.AChampionInEveryChild.org