Ocean Beach Child Care Project Is Turning 40 Years

by on November 12, 2018 · 4 comments

in Ocean Beach

One of the Longest Running OB Grassroots Projects Is Celebrating over 40 Years

By Bonnie Elias

Many times I have driven through the intersection at Chatsworth and Nimitz and wondered about the two houses on the northeast corner – and if the childcare centers I and people I know had helped to create years ago were still operating.

I hadn’t realized that my good friend, Judi – another co-founder -,  had often done the same until we were in the car together a couple of weeks ago and shared our thoughts.

To anyone else they’re just two pretty nondescript houses that are easy to ignore. But to us, the houses represent many memories and a huge success story.

I told Judi right there and then that I was going to call the following Monday to see if it was still operating. So I did call – and the telephone number was still the same one we had asked for almost a half a century ago (619-222-OBCD/ 222-OBIC).

I recognized the voice on the other end immediately.  Carol, the current director and an integral force to keeping the Ocean Beach Child Care Project alive and well for four decades, also recognized mine. Carol was one of the next generation of committed child care workers after mine and Judi’s.

Judi and I dropped by later in the week. The visit hit us with a wave of nostalgia and memories of rocking babies and working with parents that filled our hearts. Although this was not the exact location we began, Judi and I both had roots in that house donated to the non-profit by the City of San Diego.

Both of my boys – now in their 20s and 30s – were cared for at the infant center ten years after we opened. Judi’s daughter worked there as a child care worker for four years. But even more than our own kids being a part of it, we felt like the infant care center was our baby – who was now turning 40.

Carol brought us up to date and everything – even the brochure – was pretty much the same except for the fee schedule.

Origins in Mid-1970s

Let me tell you about how this child care project originated in our small community of Ocean Beach in the mid 70’s.

The vision of creating an affordable day care center developed from a spiral of events and survey results that alerted us to the unmet needs in our community.

Back then, we verbally spouted that child care along with health care was a right, not a privilege. Therefore, the belief that child care was not only women’s work became our cry.

Women in our community who had the sole responsibility of children needed help in order to further their education and personal growth. So four socially conscious OB men responded to the need for child care in Ocean Beach. They recruited a number of other men and childless women to commit to providing child care on a rotating basis. Volunteers were responsible and reported for the shifts as part of our weekly calendar.

This awareness and interest led to cooperation with Robb Field’s Tiny Tot Program that provided daytime enrichment. The project also organized to provide night time child care at women’s concerts and other women events in San Diego.

Then a few of our knowledgeable and ambitiously involved members researched and reached out to San Diego City officials and the San Diego Unified School District. Plus we became members as well of a child care consortium in San Diego and other cities in the state of California.

In 1975, we obtained nonprofit status, and anyone who says ‘timing is everything’  knows what they are talking about.

The women’s liberation movement was growing stronger and child care was a crucial issue. Also, the concept of community schools was gaining steam and using San Diego Unified School facilities for community education during non-school-age classroom hours became popular and feasible.

Several kind and instrumental officials in the school district listened to our convincing vision and helped us in 19716 start the first official parent participation Ocean Beach Child Care Project center for ages 2 1/2 – 5 year olds in room 19 of Ocean Beach Elementary School. Youth job training programs such as REGY and RETC and devoted teachers willing to work for minimum and volunteer helped to provide the low teacher to child ratio that we valued.

Next, we were compelled to address other unmet child care needs in our community and we were successful in opening up an after school program and a rare, but much-needed affordable quality infant care center. Judi and I applied for and were awarded a grant for infant/toddler care from the California State Department of Education, Office of Child Development (CASDE, OCD). There were numerous obstacles in opening for business, but the one we snicker at the most was the reactions and discouragement from landlords as we walked the streets looking for a vacant and suitable facility.

Over the next few years there were often challenges with locations and both centers had to relocate several times. The struggle softened with CASDE/OCD providing a grant to both centers and the City of San Diego buying a two-on-one property in cooperation with the Ocean Beach Child Care Project. It gives me goosebumps today thinking about all of these!

Judi and I moved on from direct involvement in the project, but left it in good hands with people who in turn left it to other well-trained and devoted staff.

Soon, after 33 years with the Project, the board of the Child Care Project will try to find someone to take Carol’s place – not an easy thing to do.

Each of the staff and originators have left a piece of this endearing project and taken a chunk of it in their hearts. Hopefully they will read this article and share their stories, too.

The beginning and the continuation of the Ocean Beach Child Care Project developed and survived because of the countless hours and buckets of love from dedicated childcare workers, other staff and parents. We persevered in the test of challenges and I hope you find an example in this for making OB better!

Support the OB Child Care Project through donations. At this time they desperately need help with physical improvements to the playground. For more information, call Carol at 619-222-OBIC (6242).

 

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

molly Molly November 12, 2018 at 2:41 pm

Good for you Bonnie and Judi. Thanks for the update – and thanks for all your early work on this wonderful project. (Would have been helpful to see photos of the inside.)

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Ol OB Hippie November 12, 2018 at 2:46 pm

Nice article Bonnie. (Are you going to name those 4 “socialy- conscious” men? )

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Steve Wimmers November 12, 2018 at 6:02 pm

Very well written article, Bonnie.
As you know, my oldest son Eric attended the Ocean Beach Child Care Project center for ages 2.5 – 5 year olds at Ocean Beach Elementary School. One of the unexpected benefits of participating in the Child Care Project was forming lifetime friendships with you, Judi and many of our mutual friends who were connected to the Child Care Project.
A number of years after Eric moved on to attend Ocean Beach Elementary School, I had the opportunity to work with City Councilperson Bill Cleator and his staffer, Erin Malone. Our goal was to find a permanent home for the program. We had many meetings over a two year period. My recollection was that CDBG funds allocated to our City Council District were used to purchase the building. I have driven past the intersection you mentioned in your article hundreds of times, and I frequently have felt gratified and thankful that the Project is still alive and well.

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Dennis Doyle November 17, 2018 at 8:40 pm

Terrific article, Bonnie. I’m proud to have been one of the “Founding Fathers!”

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