I just want to welcome you and say that, (1) I am off bedrest, in case you were wondering (I keep the latest news about the pregnancy here), and Truman's due date has been moved up to May 8; and (2) Wow! Kristin Heying's Cafe Au Play sounds really awesome, and really, really like my pet project, for which I have written a 20-some page business plan. It's not color-coded, but it does include drip coffee and yogurt with toppings. Interesting. Either we think very, very much alike, or she's seen my thoughts - either way I'd love to chat with her. If you're visiting, Kristin, hello and give me a call. We're in the phone book under my husband's name.
I haven't launched my play cafe because, well, a number of things. I'm now working three jobs (two for pay, one non-profit), my husband's in training, and I'm too broke to spend time on something like this right now. Job #3 has a lot of commonalities to my project, and it's something I've been up late (like, 3:30 a.m. last night) working on. It's called Friends of Indoor Park and I'd like to tell you a little - no, a lot - about it.
Friends of Indoor Park "narrative"
Friends of Indoor Park (FIP) is a non-profit indoor play park for babies and children, operated as a cooperative. The park was founded in 1985 with a grant from the city, and in June of 2004, lost its lease on the Child Services Center at 14th and Stark when it was sold to the city by Portland Public Schools. We are currently looking for a new space, and raising funds to pay for the greatly-increased cost of looking for a lease on the public market. If you'd like to make a donation, you can send it to Friends of Indoor Park at 3740 SE Main, Portland OR 97214. We have an anonymous donor who is providing matching funds, so your donation will be doubled (up to $500). We are a non-profit.
FIP seeks to provide a safe, nurturing environment for children from birth to age five, and to enable parents to find a secure, supportive environment to build and develop friendships with other adults. These goals can be obtained by providing children and their parents shelter from rain and heat and the opportunity for both quiet and energetic play as well as age-appropriate motor skill development. FIP owns toys and indoor equipment that encourage exploration, imagination and cooperative play. FIP aids children in their socialization, play and personal growth needs. It enables parents to exchange ideas about positive parenting and to role model these behaviors; it also decreases the isolation many parents experience at times.
In 2005, FIP seeks to find a new location for its indoor play park, move its equipment into the space, and re-open the park with expanded hours and activities. The timetable for 2005 is as follows:
- January 2005 – Complete grant application, initiate private fundraising
- February 2005 – Find 2-5 attractive spaces, plan rummage sale benefit, obtain publicity for fundraising
- March 2005 – Select space, negotiate lease, obtain 20-30 prepaid memberships from existing member list and new volunteers
- April 2005 – Sign lease, obtain insurance, move into new space, open to members, publicize park to community
- May 2005 – Recruit business relationships; children’s yoga and art instructors, for instance; to conduct classes for members and non-members
- June 2005 – Membership capacity reached
The FIP board will continue to develop relationships with complementary service providers and organizations, such as the La Leche League, yoga instructors, and parents’ groups. The board will also consider the possibility of co-locating with an existing business or new development (such as a coffee shop or resale shop), or locating in a little-used space in a public building (such as a church or school) to reduce costs. However, the space found must allow FIP to meet the following priorities:
- Expand our hours to better serve all families, particularly working families;
- Increase the ethnic and socio-economic diversity of the park membership through location in a diverse neighborhood;
- Provide a secure entrance (with lockbox, card access, or other mechanism) so park does not need to hire any employees;
- Have access to a bathroom with space for diaper-changing;
- Allow ample room so our facility can be utilized by other groups and associations providing support to families.
The Buckman Indoor Park is a cooperative park, meaning each family is responsible for contributing to park maintenance and overall operations. Parents built and maintain the play space, serve on the board and create the vision of the park. Membership is open to any family. Dues are paid on a sliding scale of $45-65 per year. In 2005, we hope to give full or partial scholarships to at least 20 families, and have formed an outreach partnership with Portland Impact to further the goal of serving a diverse socio-economic group.
The mission of FIP centers upon the belief that inner-eastside Portland parents will always be seeking safe and inexpensive indoor sites for their children to play during the winter and late summer months as well as on our numerous rainy days. Central to our mission statement is our desire to provide free and subsidized memberships to low-income families; secondly, to make all parents feel welcome, regardless of income level or cultural background.
The target population of FIP is middle and low-income parents with young children living in Portland’s inner-eastside neighborhoods. Currently, there are limited indoor play options: OMSI, whose memberships are too expensive for some families; indoor play times, which are open a few hours each week by various community centers and additional play parks operated sporadically by churches. These parks typically require that parents set up all toys and equipment at the beginning of each day, and clean up at the end, which is very difficult for mothers with an infant and an older child. They seldom offer much opportunity for parents to sit and chat, or comfortable places for nursing mothers to breastfeed. None of these indoor play options are open on a regular basis in the evenings or weekends, which means that parents who work outside the home are unable to access these opportunities to interactively relate with their children or to socialize with other parents.
In our universe of friends and acquaintances with small children, the constant theme of conversation is, where can a parent go to let their children play and still conduct a conversation? The desperate need to interact with other adults, to gain validation, to make friends and prevent the overwhelming feeling of isolation that so many of us experience, has so few outlets. Once the clock strikes 6 p.m., day care centers are closed and so are all the places for children to play. Working parents are utterly without options to relate to other parents. During the summer months, play areas at parks are packed with working parents after 5 p.m., eking out every hour of sunlight. During the long winter months, working parents and their children are forced indoors, in their own homes, unless they have the funds and the parenting capacity to eat out at one of the few restaurants that cater to families – and most of these serve unhealthy food.
Our nation is facing twin crises of obesity and isolation. All evidence shows that experiences in early childhood shape habits and temperament for a lifetime. Providing a safe place to play, with toys and equipment designed to promote gross motor skill development, and a calm environment for parents to interact, can give the parents and children in our community the tools to combat these crises.
I'm the president of FIP, and we meet Fridays at 9:30 a.m. at Chance of Rain on SE 32nd just south of Hawthorne. If you'd like to be involved, by all means, stop by, write (mama @ cafemama.com), call.