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Volunteers spruce up preschools

By Tracy Chocholousek Special to the Daily Planet
Monday May 21, 2001



Liz O’Connell-Gates came to preschool with her kids on Saturday to get involved in a lesson plan that didn’t involve ABC’s or 123’s. At Step One School – located in the Berkeley hills – children, teachers and parents traded in crayons for gardening tools to participate in a countywide beautification project called “Spruce up for Kids Day.” 

More than 2,000 volunteers throughout Alameda county pitched in time at approximately 120 child care centers during the event made possible by the Alameda County Children and Families Commission, said Kathy Padro, the commission’s outreach coordinator. 

The commission collected some $250,000 in grants generated from Proposition 10, the 50-cent per pack cigarette tax that funds early childhood development and anti-tobacco education programs in California.  

“It’s important to get kids at an early age and teach them about gardening and tobacco,” O’Connell-Gates said. “Just like they say that love lasts a lifetime, I think that the wonderful things kids learn here last a lifetime and can be passed on.” 

“Spruce up for Kids Day” provided an opportunity to involve parents with their children’s’ schools and to involve kids with nature.  

“There’s a pretty active parent community here. It’s the only way you can make ends meet in a school like this,” said Eric Bjerkholt, father of one Step One Alumnus and two other children currently enrolled. 

Many preschools and childcare centers are non-profit organizations and are “traditionally under funded,” according to a press release put out by the commission.  

“We are in a crisis that’s been brewing basically because teachers already don’t get paid enough, and preschool teachers get paid even less,” said Sue Britson, co-director at Step One.