First Impressions honored | SteamboatToday.com

First Impressions honored

Gary E. Salazar

— A Routt County program has been recognized for its work by Colorado Counties Inc.

First Impressions of Routt County has been selected to receive the Innovation Award during CCI’s state convention next week.

“We are proud of the work First Impressions has done,” said Bob White, director of human services for Routt County. “First Impressions is a model for the whole country.”

First Impressions was selected to receive the annual award given by the 64-county organization along with three other programs.

Also to receive the award are Weld County’s Welfare to Work Program, Larimer County’s PARENT Program and Adams County’s Community Adult Protection Team.

Each of the recipients will give a 15-minute presentation of its program during an awards ceremony, which is scheduled for 1:45 p.m. Nov. 27 at the Sheraton Hotel in Colorado Springs.

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White and Commissioner Doug Monger will give the presentation on how other counties in the state can follow Routt County’s footsteps, White said.

“We are all struggling to address family issues,” White said of his county colleagues. “If other counties want to replicate this successful program, they will be able to do so.”

First Impressions was formed in 1998 through Routt County’s Department of Human Services because of a pilot program initiated by former Gov. Roy Romer.

“Routt County was fortunate enough to be one of six counties to get this pilot program,” White said. “Since then, the state has added six counties each year. There are a total of 18 programs in the state.”

First Impressions is a countywide board that focuses on all aspects of early childhood education and care.

All facets of the community represent the 28-member board that governs First Impressions. The board is co-chaired by a county commissioner and a City Council member. There are also representatives from business, education, recreation, faith and families.

The goals of the board are to improve quality in early childhood programs and promote public awareness about the importance of childhood development.

A key to First Impressions’ success is the work done by Renee Donahue, who was hired in 1998 to act as the community liaison.

“I have tried to take some of these ideas and make them a reality,” Donahue said.

A major accomplishment for First Impressions was its work to place two initiatives on the Nov. 6 ballot.

Although voters rejected the two-pronged tax that would have been used to increase the quality of child-care education in Routt County, the board views its work as a success because it brought the issue to light.

First Impressions has also been successful in obtaining grants. The program began with a $10,000 grant from the Colorado Department of Education. Since then, the program has written grants for more than $150,000.