AUGUSTA — Children’s Center, an early childhood intervention and family support services organization for youth with special needs, has launched the public phase of its capital campaign, inviting the public to help close the gap and make the project a reality.

Having raised more than 80% of its $5 million goal to expand its primary location in Augusta in order to meet demand, officials at the Children’s Center say that the time is now.

“This capital campaign has been humbling and heartwarming,” said Jeff Johnson, Children’s Center executive director, in a news release from the center. “We have seen major gifts come in from people and organizations who recognize the importance of having services available to kids with special needs during their earliest years. Right now, we have a waiting list of more than 100 kids whose developmental window of opportunity is closing while they wait for an appropriate place to learn and grow. That’s what we’re trying to fix with this expansion — we’re addressing the waiting list for specialized services and giving more kids in Central Maine more opportunities in life.”

The public phase of the campaign launched in late October during a virtual meeting. A video featuring supporters and family testimonials that outline the need was unveiled during the virtual launch, available at youtu.be/C_BWdvQ-yzs.

The center plans to expand its facility by 14,000 square feet, while renovating 5,000 square feet of existing space. The expansion will more than double the space and provide additional classrooms, specialized service areas and administrative space. The expansion also will create additional gross motor space, a stimulation-sensitive entrance and lobby, solar installation for improved energy efficiency and a reduced carbon footprint, and the state’s only Snoezelen Room.

Ground should be broken on the expansion this spring.

“Depending on the child, the Children’s Center can mean the difference between them walking, talking, learning to chew and swallow, or tolerating physical contact enough for a parent to hug them. Imagine not being able to hug your child or grandchildren to comfort them or communicate safety and love. It’s heart wrenching,” said Johnson. “The specialized services we offer help children understand and express their needs, wants and emotions. All these kids deserve an opportunity to explore and reach their potential. With a little help from the center, they get that.”

After announcements over the past few weeks — including $100,000 from both the Davis Family Foundation and Pine State Trading Co., and a $1 million matching grant challenge from the Harold Alfond Foundation in tribute to David and Kaye Flanagan — the Children’s Center has raised $4.5 million toward the $5 million goal.

Until now, the campaign has focused on major gifts to bring the organization closer to the finish line. While pursuing major gifts will continue to be a part of the strategy, Children’s Center officials are optimistic that the community as a whole will help raise the remaining $500,000 to make the expansion a reality.

“The $1,000,000 Harold Alfond Foundation matching grant challenge is a tremendous opportunity for people to make their own gift more meaningful,” said Johnson. “That essentially means that any gift is worth double thanks to the match from the Harold Alfond Foundation.”

For more information, visit achampionineverychild.org.

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