Group seeks public opinion

First Impressions considering tax to fund services

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— While First Impressions of Routt County attempts to gain awareness in the community through phone surveys that began Friday, it will continue to build its credible reputation of enhancing early childhood education.

From independent surveying contractors in Denver, 500 of the 10,000 voters in Routt County will be called to answer surveyed questions pertaining to First Impressions. This survey may give First Impressions the answers it needs to hopefully put forth a ballot initiative for a half-cent sales tax for early childhood education, said Renee Donahue, community outreach organizer for First Impressions.

"It's a very controversial topic. We need to hit people that aren't in our normal circles," Donahue said.

"We need more of the general public's opinion."

Having been selected as the beneficiary for Snowball didn't hurt the financial accounts of First Impressions. The organization still is deciding how the $38,000 from Snowball will be distributed, Donahue said.

Along with those proceeds, First Impressions recently received two $10,000 grants from the Colorado Department of Human Services for early childhood emotional and social development.

These grants will fund a project, still in the planning stages, for Social Emotional Early Development, or SEED.

Part of the grant money will be used to hire a full-time coordinator for the SEED project.

At a SEED workshop Thursday, Mary Grimmer, program coordinator for the Pearl Program in Denver, will speak about the program's services and benefits.

The Pearl Program is a community-based collaborative approach for providing onsite, relationship-based mental health consultation to child-care providers, families and children.

Because children are looked after by people other than their family for the majority of their waking hours, concern for their development during those hours is First Impressions' most critical interest.

Donahue said many children entering school already are exhibiting negative behavior and problems.

"The earlier we catch it, the better it is," Donahue said of children's early problems.

Through workshops, therapy and consultation, First Impressions will get an inside look into the success of other communities with programs like SEED.

The workshop targets ways to assist early childhood development for professionals and those interested in the well-being of young children.

"We're looking at other communities to look at what's been done and then customize it to Routt County," Donahue said. "We want to develop a more comprehensive approach to working with very young children."

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