“When you are able to have multiple services under one roof,” said Betty Banks, “that’s really able to make a difference for families.”
Madison’s east side has a new and important resource to bolster families and to connect them to valuable community resources with the new Today Not Tomorrow Family Resource Center that will be located within the East Madison Community Center (EMCC). An open house and press conference was held on June 7 at EMCC to hear from all of the partners that will join the space for parents and caregivers to come with their infants and toddlers.
“The Resource Center has come together with collaborative partners because we want to serve young families who not only live in this neighborhood, but live outside of this neighborhood, also,” said Banks, executive director of Today Not Tomorrow. “(Today Not Tomorrow Director of Operations and Programming) Jeanne Erickson and I are the co-founders of Project Babies and we have been talking for at least 10 years about a Resource Center and we’re fortunate enough to be able to open up this center in this particular space.”
The Today Not Tomorrow Family Resource Center will be open weekdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Banks told the crowd that a lot of the work would be volunteer-based. “We all come and do the work that we do because we know how important it is for young families to be supported and for them to be able to find resources and to build their own networks of support and share with each other the joys and the challenges of raising young children,” she said.
The Today Not Tomorrow Family Resource Center (FRC) will provide a safe place for caregivers with infants and young children to play, learn and grow together. The programming and offerings of the FRC are open to anyone in the Madison and surrounding areas.
“We will have open play time. We will have time when there is guided play. We will have activities for parents and children. We will go on field trips,” Banks says. “Everything that we will do is intended for parents and children to learn.”
Linda Ketcham, executive director of Madison-area Urban Ministry (MUM), said that on behalf of the board and staff of MUM that she couldn’t be more excited about the opening of the resource center.
“It’s way overdue. We know at MUM that anything that Club TNT is involved with is exciting, is explosive, and is well done,” Ketcham said. “We appreciate what you are doing to help strengthen and support the community here. As an agency that works with individuals who are returning to the community from prison and as an organization that works to provide support for kids who have an incarcerated parent, we know how crucial it is to have a safe, caring place for parents and caregivers to find support and encouragement.
“We at MUM pledge our support to work collaboratively and in partnership with the center,” Ketcham added. “We will utilize the Center as a crucial resource for the families with whom we work.”
DeKendria Stamps, assistant director of the East Madison Community Center, said that the Center is very excited to have Today Not Tomorrow joining them.
“When we were looking for a new partner in this space that you guys are in today and we wanted to make sure that we continued to have a partner that worked with pre-school-aged children and their families and we feel like we found the perfect fit,” Stamps said. “The East Madison Community Center works hard to support families in the area. One of our taglines is that we are Madison’s ‘home away from home’
“We really want to make sure that families feel supported in this space and we know that they will be supported with having Club TNT here,” she added. “We know that their staff has decades of experience and proven leadership in the community and we are very excited to have them here with us.”
Collaborative partners for the Today Not Tomorrow Family Resource Center will include African American Breast Feeding Alliance, Harambee Village Doulas, Integrated Fitness, Neighborhood Connectors, and Project Babies.
Hershey Barnett Bridges, a retired public health nurse for Dane County and the co-founder of the African American Breast Feeding Alliance of Dane County, said that it’s important to support women in the community who are trying to breast feed. “If you want to change the disparities in health, start by breastfeeding,” she said.
“We are so excited to be a part of this initiative,” added Tia Murray of Harambe Village Doulas, which she helped found in 2014. “We are a community-based Doulas organization and we focus on reducing racial disparities. In particular, we focus on reducing disparities in birth outcomes … infant mortality in the African-American community. We are excited to be part of this program because we really feel like we meet the needs of women throughout the lifespan. We’re proud to be here and we look forward to supporting women, babies and families.”
Erickson, who is also the Project Babies director, said it was so much fun to walk into the EMCC building in the morning to see families and children playing.
“Project Babies has been in existence through Today Not Tomorrow for 10 years. What we bring to the Family Resource Center and the community is the ability to provide the material things that a family needs when they have an infant and a toddler,” Erickson said. “We know how expensive it can be and oftentimes our families are making a choice between paying a bill and paying the rent or buying food. What Project Babies is able to do in a small way is to provide diapers and wipes and clothing and take that financial burden off the families.”
Today Not Tomorrow’s Banks has a background in family education while Erickson has a background in brain development. “Our stations around the room are set up very much brain-based,” Erickson said. “Activities that we will be providing along with our partners have that as a main focus.”
Erickson added that there is not a place right now where un-housed families can go to with infants and toddlers and have structured programs. “This space truly matters and will offer an opportunity for those families that they do not have,” she said.