Love kids? Miss yours? Children's Center could use your help

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Teachers in the busy infant room can always use extra help from volunteers. LYNNE COPE HUMMELL

The Children's Center has been a staple in the community for more than 50 years, providing affordable child care and early childhood education to families living in the Lowcountry.

Located on the north end of Hilton Head Island, the center currently has 15 volunteers who help out on a regular basis and several local organizations who periodically volunteer at the center.

However, executive director Jody Levitt said the staff needs more people who are willing to volunteer.

Volunteers can choose how and when they would like to serve. They can cuddle with babies, read to the children, make arts and crafts projects with them, help out on the playground, tutor kids after school, help with administrative work or prepare meals in the kitchen.

After retiring from her longtime position as executive director of the Deep Well Project, Betsy Doughtie joined the board of directors at The Children's Center and has taken on the role of volunteer coordinator.

"The teachers are doing a fabulous job," Doughtie said. "The volunteers are an enhancement to the teachers and to the whole program. ... On any given day, it would be helpful to have an extra set of hands."

All volunteers are required to complete a volunteer profile and undergo a background check. After being approved, they must attend an orientation. Classroom volunteers cannot be substitutes for teachers and are never left alone with the children.

According to Levitt, The Children's Center is the second oldest nonprofit organization on Hilton Head. Founded in 1967 by educator Rev. Isaac Wilborn, the center offers one of the lowest tuition rates in the area and, as far as Levitt knows, is the only local early childhood center that offers tuition on a sliding-fee scale based on family income and size.

"There's value to us being here to the community as a whole because those parents are now able to go out and work in our community, providing services that we all partake in," Levitt said.

About 40 percent of the children enrolled at The Children's Center do not reside on Hilton Head, Levitt said. Of that 40 percent, 20 to 30 percent live beyond Bluffton.

While the center is open to all, Levitt said about 85 to 88 percent of the children qualify for free or reduced lunch.

"That means that the other 12 percent are paying full rack rate because they understand the quality of what we're offering," Levitt said. "It's not just day care. It's early education. ... We are constantly working with each child and the families to make sure that these kids are getting what they need developmentally so we can say that the children who graduate from The Children's Center are ready to enter kindergarten."

The Children's Center welcomes children from six weeks to 8 years of age. The center offers after-school and summer camp programs as well.

For more information, visit thechildrenscentersc.org/volunteer. Anyone interested in volunteering can call 843-681-2739 or stop by and speak with Levitt.

Amy Coyne Bredeson of Bluffton is a freelance writer, a mother of two and a volunteer with the Tuberous Sclerosis Alliance.

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