One Outer Banks feature that makes it such a special place to live is how committed the community is to our children. Of course, many towns and municipalities may say the same thing, but here on the Outer Banks there is real evidence that this is the case.
The Children and Youth Partnership for Dare County (C&YP) is about to celebrate its 20th anniversary. The story of how the organization came into existence is a great example of what it means to be committed to the children of a community.
In 1994, Dare County sponsored a “State of the Child” conference that brought together educators, businesses, community leaders and local politicians. What the participants soon came to realize was saying you’re committed to the wellbeing of your youth is not the same as taking action. As a direct result, C&YP was formed with the understanding that this organization would identify critical needs within the community and address them.
One of the first things the organizers of C&YP did was hire an executive director, and the person they chose was a home run. Loretta Michaels, the only ED the organization had through its first 20 years, had the background and skills needed to get things moving. At the time she was on the Dare County Board of Education, had experience working in the nonprofit world and had tremendous vision and energy.
Two initiatives came out of that first conference. A safe house for children in foster care was created, which was important for a number of reasons, but may not have been as visible as the other major project, the Recreation Park. Located between the Bypass and the First Flight Schools campus in Kill Devil Hills, this park was established after the realization that there was no place for kids’ activities on the beach side of the county. According to Loretta, what really moved the project forward was the county’s decision to donate the land to C&YP with the understanding that a recreational facility would be built there.
Here’s where the community really stepped up and stepped in. C&YP managed to raise $250,000, but more was needed so the business community stepped in with both donations and materials. The county applied for a matching grant, and when the dust settled, a true community center was in place. The final piece to the puzzle was Dare County agreeing to maintain the facility after it was built.
There have been a number of other triumphs along the way in which C&YP has continuously shown their commitment to the children of our community. There was early participation in the Dolly Parton Imagination Library, a project that registered children to receive a free book once a month. C&YP has registered just about every child in the county.
When a statewide study of childcare in North Carolina placed Dare County dead last in the rankings, C&YP began a concentrated effort to raise the standard of care. Working with providers, they created a scholarship program for daycare workers to take classes at College of the Albemarle and developed ways to cut down on turnover. As a result, according to the 2013 rankings, Dare County is now 7th in the state.
How a community cares for its children is very much a quality of life issue, and by founding the C&YP, our community looked at how they were valuing their children, felt they could do better and went on to producing many solid accomplishments. At the helm was always Loretta Michaels, who retired in September of 2014, leaving behind many enriched children.