Promoting a safe, healthy, and thriving community is key to the work being carried out by the 0-5 Flathead Reservation-Lake County Coalition. Established in 2021, the group is an extension of the Young Child Wellness Council, a network of professionals working to support parents and children in our communities for the last seven years. The overall coalition is supported by the Headwaters Foundation, as part of a statewide initiative focused on the 0-5 population.
“We all know from personal experience and the research shows, ‘those early years are so influential on a person’s entire life,’” explained project coordinator Jennifer Rolfsness. Working collaboratively with the entire community, our program is seeking ways to help children have the best foundation possible. With a mission of connecting communities, celebrating families, and cultivating futures, the initiative centers on supportive relationships and direct family engagement.
Our first year we partnered on events for families that were free and open to all. This included the Penguin Path and Spring Fling – Family Fitness Day, as well as other outreach activities. The special activities will take place again this year, including new “parent’s nights out” which we are developing to give parents a little break and healthy, fun alternatives for a night out.
Along with community activities, the group also works to promote a strong professional network, hosting monthly information sharing lunches as well as helping families access services and resources. To support these goals, the group has developed a website, www.zerotofivefrlc.org with community listings and links to providers. “The website is one way of connecting with the community,” Rolfsness said. “This year we have added a monthly community member profile, sharing the stories of those working in the community to support families.”
After year one, the group identified several areas of need for local childcare providers. Childcare options are limited and many of the service providers have a tough time keeping ahead of it all. To address some of the challenges we will be offering assistance to childcare centers for connecting children to local historic, cultural, and educational venues and support for new play area tools and stations. The program will be hosting free professional development programs for those working in childcare. More information on these projects will be released in the next few months.
One of the most exciting upcoming developments will be the development of outdoor play spaces (Playing it Forward). We have a work group to help us build a strategic plan for creating permanent areas to connect families with the natural world and physical activity.
During the year, the 0-5 Coalition is going to honor those working with families and children. “We are hosting the Big Sky Bright Lights Program, honoring educators in the schools this fall,” Rolfsness said. “In the spring we will have a similar program for childcare agencies.” Nominations for the Big Sky, Bright Lights Project are currently being taken.
To get a nomination or find out more information, contact Jennifer at [email protected]. or call her @ (406) 883.8256.