The Summit Foundation donates $115,000 to child care services as funding for nonprofits wanes |

The Summit Foundation donates $115,000 to child care services as funding for nonprofits wanes

Summit County Preschool is seen Aug. 28, 2018, along Main Street in Frisco. The school received a grant from The Summit Foundation for conoravirus relief.
Hugh Carey /

FRISCO — The Summit Foundation’s Summit Cares Emergency Fund has distributed a total of $390,000 so far to various nonprofits during the pandemic. Recently, $115,000 of that has gone directly to local child care centers.

Little Red Schoolhouse, Carriage House, Lake Dillon Preschool, Open Arms Childcare and Preschool, Summit County Preschool and Timberline Learning Center all received grants based on the size of the schools and number of children served. The grants ranged from $5,000 to $20,000, matching or exceeding what the facilities usually get from the foundation.

While the emergency fund has focused on basic needs such as food and housing, the shift to supporting child care is necessary as more parents return to work. The foundation hopes to keep the nonprofit centers afloat as they navigate health policies that may require teachers to stay home, entire classes to quarantine or the whole school to shut down.

“They’re always operating on a thin line anyways,” said Jeanne Bistranin, executive director of The Summit Foundation. “The tuition is expensive, but it doesn’t cover all of their expenses. That business model is always a fine line, so this is above and beyond any normal grant that they would get from us.”

Summit County Preschool was closed for 2 1/2 months and came back to reduced classroom sizes, losing even more revenue. When the pandemic hit in March, parents that prepaid for April child care were given credits for when the school reopened.

“Financially, getting through the summer was really, really tight,” said Summit County Preschool Director Kim Theller, who said the center received a $20,000 grant. “When we found out The Summit Foundation was going to be generous and step up and help all the centers, because we’re all in the same boat, it was just a huge relief.” 

The grant will help the preschool deal with unexpected costs such as increased disinfecting. More wear and tear is being placed on the facilities’ laundry and dishwashing machines, which leads to higher utility bills and supplies being replaced more frequently. Teachers are being paid up to $1,000 in overtime per payroll for the cleaning. Additionally, the strollers are being used for more walks.

“Those hidden costs are just now all surfacing,” Theller said. “It’s just multiplying. We have to clean all the toys, all the shelves, all the tables, the chairs, the mats they sleep on for their nap. Everything has to have a thorough clean.”

Little Red Schoolhouse in Breckenridge also shut down for 11 weeks and credited parents tuition. Additionally, the school provided remote opportunities for free during that time. The school decided not to raise its tuition this year, either.

With school back in session, the facility is using the grant money to focus on paying staff regardless of whether they’re working in the classroom.

“They’re out of work more than they would be in the past, just due to the new regulations,” said Greta Shackelford, director of Little Red Schoolhouse, which also received a $20,000 grant. “… Whether that’s because they’re sick or because they’re just being required to be home because someone in their family has been sick, or someone in the classroom is sick, or they have a migraine, they still have to be out.”

The school provides 80 hours of paid leave, but Shackelford realizes that quickly can go away if it has to close for two weeks. She hopes the continued pay will incentivize employees to stay at the school, which is already short three teachers.

“We know there’s going to be closures due to COVID, but we need to make sure the staff is supported well enough that we don’t have closures due to staffing issues,” Shackelford said.

The next big question mark is future funding as this year has seen a lack of fundraisers for the schools and The Summit Foundation. Summit County Preschool, for example, had to cancel its comedy night — its biggest fundraiser of the year — and ski-a-thon. Meanwhile, Little Red Schoolhouse is banking on its November raffle to make up the deficit.

Bistranin believes philanthropy won’t account for the millions in shortfalls nonprofits throughout the region have experienced.

“We’re really concerned about next year,” Bistranin said. “We have these emergency needs right now, but all of our nonprofits have had such reduced revenue from programming they couldn’t do and fundraising events that we couldn’t do.”

Great Rubber Duck Race

It doesn’t go toward the Summit Cares Emergency Fund, but The Summit Foundation’s largest annual fundraiser is still happening to support the organization’s annual grants. The public can purchase a duck for the virtual Great Rubber Duck Race for $5 for a single duck up to a “flock” of 26 ducks for $100.

The online purchase deadline is Wednesday, Sept. 2, and the virtual races will be broadcast at 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 3, on The Summit Foundation’s Facebook page and Summit County TV Channel 10. Visit to purchase.

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