Recent News / Blog

Bay County Chamber of Commerce launches Childcare Task Force Survey

PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) – In an effort to assess the current childcare needs in our community, The Bay County Chamber of Commerce launched a new Childcare Task Force Business Survey.

Open now till July 15, the survey questions will address the concerns of both employees struggling with childcare options and local businesses finding absenteeism issues and low productivity levels.

In coordination with the Early Learning Coalition of Northwest Florida, Chamber Officials said the data from the survey will lead to identifying potential solutions and strategies to improve access to affordable, high-quality childcare for working families.

Chamber President and CEO, Patrick Chapin, said, “We’ve heard stories after stories after stories about single parents not being able to find quality care which is limiting their work viability. The Florida Chamber actually did a survey and its 5.4 billion dollars of lost economic impact to the state of Florida. So, we really want to drill down to Bay County and find out what is happening here specifically and then start working on solutions.”

The Early Learning Coalition also encourages anyone that is interested in getting assistance in childcare or developmental screenings to go to Early Learning Coalition of Northwest Florida.

Tami Valdez, Early Learning Coalition Community Development and Special Projects Director, said, “Ninety percent of the brain is development between birth to five, so our future is our children right now. If they are not getting a strong early learning foundation, they are not going to be the best employees once they get there. Our workforce in the future is our children today.”

The online survey link can be found here or on the Bay County Chamber’s Facebook page.

Early Learning Coalition of NWFL offers developmental screenings for children

PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) – Friday morning Early Learning Coalition of Northwest Florida held a Books, Balls & Blocks event at The Drip Coffee Co in Panama City.

This comes as the nonprofit continues its mission to set children and families up for success through learning.

Books, Balls, & Blocks was for children two months to eight years old and offered parents the opportunity to get free developmental and behavioral screenings for their children.

Early Learning Coalition of Northwest Florida Special Projects Manager Alyssa Gray said assessing needs and improving development as early as possible is very important.

“90 percent of your brain is actually developed by age five,” Gray said. “So those early interventions to make sure you have the foundation for learning later in life directly correlate with the outcomes later in life as an adult.”

The screening assessed five different areas of development including communication, problem-solving, fine motor, gross motor and personal social.

Questions asked include whether a young child can sit up on their own or whether toddlers can use a pair of scissors.

Results were provided to parents during the event as well as resources.

Children also got to indulge in several play stations aimed at improving development.

Megan Sweeten brought her four children to the event and said she has been to plenty Early Learning Coalition of NWFL events and finds them to be useful.

“You learn their [children’s] strengths and their weaknesses and where you can help them out,” Sweeten said. “Even help educate your friends and other people around you.

The Early Learning Coalition of Northwest Florida team said their goal is not to diagnose a child but to help support development.

The next Early Learning Coalition of Northwest Florida event is set to take place on July 13 at Goshen Evangelist Ministries located at 2904 E Highway 98, Panama City, FL 32401.

For the latest information on the nonprofit’s events or resources visit their website.

Early Learning Coalition of NWFL to donate nearly 10,000 books

BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) – The Early Learning Coalition of Northwest Florida has received a massive shipment of books, totaling approximately 9,900. The books were delivered to the organization on Wednesday, purchased using American Rescue Plan Act funds.

Tami Valdez, Community Development of Special Programs Director for the Early Learning Coalition of NWFL, said they expect the books to last at least two years.

“Reading is so important, and we’ve made a promise and a commitment to providing families with early learning resources, and this is just part of that commitment,” Valdez said.

The books, specifically selected for children ages zero to eight, will be distributed at several Early Learning Coalition of NWFL book events throughout the seven counties served. Children will have the opportunity to choose a book they like, helping them build their personal libraries.

“Reading, especially from birth to five, is crucial because they are learning all about reading and developing a love for it,” Valdez said. “It’s the foundation for learning. Babies will engage in sensory activities, looking in mirrors, feeling fabrics. As they get to be two, three, four years old, they’re learning numbers, colors, empathy, and understanding the world around them—all of which can come from a book.”

Education leaders emphasize that instilling a love for reading in children is important for lifelong success.

The Early Learning Coalition of Northwest Florida will distribute 100 books at the Books, Balls, and Blocks event on Friday at the Drip Coffee Co., located at 2440 St. Andrews Blvd, Panama City, FL 32405. The event will run from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. on June 21.