East Hampton’s Eleanor Whitmore Early Childhood Center (EWECC) is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.
We recently caught up with Maureen Wikane, who has served as Director of the Center since its inception, and will be honored during EWECC’s Summer Benefit – A Barn Dance at Kilmore Farm on Saturday, June 3.
What are some of the more notable Center changes that have transpired over the years?
MW: We are right in the heart of the Village. We’re walking distance of everything. It’s made it a very pleasant experience in that we can bring the children to many parts of the community. So they can integrate a lot of what’s around them in the community with what they’re learning here. We’re located on the East Hampton School District property, so it really has a feeling of a campus. We start at 18-months-old and from here the children actually just go over a little bit to another building for elementary school, so there’s a lot of coordination and transitioning from this facility, which makes it very pleasant for the students and for the families.
We’re also located diagonally from the YMCA Rec Center and so we can make use of that facility and collaborate with them on programming and the use of their pool. I think that’s really what we gained by this site. We were in an old facility on Cedar Street before that, and under a different name – East Hampton Day Care, but the move to this site and the beautiful new facility that was built really enabled us to offer a premium experience for young children and their families. The first class that we had at the new location was the East Hampton pre-k graduating class of 1997.
The organization is actually much older. The seeds were planted way back then [in 1969], but like the entire early education industry, nobody had any idea of what was to come, and so it’s blossomed into everything that should be happening for young children.
EWECC is the only not-for-profit educational organization providing full-day, year-round child care in East Hampton. How has that impacted the community?
MW: It’s a long waiting list because we’re working with all the young families that work, in most cases two jobs, at least. They’re having children with not so much the extended family that we saw years ago, so we’re it. They know that it’s safe and that the children are learning what they should be, which is really a social, emotion experience more than anything. I think that’s the impact, for the young families. On the other side of the coin, we’re also serving the employers – in that they can keep their people working and engaged in East Hampton. So, whether they realize it or not, we’re serving them in a very different way.
Reflecting back on the Center’s 20th anniversary, are there any accomplishments you’re most proud of?
MW: Yes, several. We were one of the very first to implement a pre-k program out here, at that time. And that was the East Hampton School District’s vision – to see this happening and at the same time, with the day care, realizing we needed to expand and be a bigger facility and a more modern and contemporary site. Those are two really big achievements for both organizations being able to work together.
Over the years we’ve built this program that’s turned into one of the first all-day pre-k programs out here. We knew that that was the way we had to go to meet the needs of the children. Prior to the full day, they were here for 2 1/2 hours. That didn’t really enable us to get into all of the skills that we’re able to teach, and it also didn’t serve the working families that had to figure out the rest of the day. I think the full day was one of the biggest accomplishments.
What do you hope for the future of the Center?
MW: We hope to continue to build the curriculum, which has many components, as I mentioned the social, emotional is first and foremost, and work more for the families in the community in helping them with children and meeting their needs, as well. If anything we would expand the age group to include even younger children.
What does it mean to you to be honored at this year’s Barn Dance?
MW: It’s very nice to be recognized for a lot of hard work and making a lot of strides with working together with other agencies and certainly other donors and supporters of the Center.
A Barn Dance at Kilmore Farm in Wainscott will feature live music, dancing, Southern Fare, and more. Tickets begin at $200.
For more information about the Eleanor Whitmore Early Childhood Center, or EWECC’s Summer Benefit – A Barn Dance at Kilmore Farm, visit ewecc.org.