By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
Sunbeam Family Services, one of Oklahoma City’s longest serving nonprofits, is expanding its early childhood development programs. This comes as a result of a federal Early Head Start Child Care Partnership Grant.
The five-year $3 million dollar program is one of the largest grants awarded in Oklahoma by Health & Human Services – Office of Head Start. It will fund 312 new Early Head Start placements for children ages birth to three years placed in traditional early childhood centers.
Sunbeam Family Services will administer and manage the grant by partnering with 14 early childcare locations across Oklahoma City, including an important partnership with the Community Action Agency.
“Sunbeam has provided the highest quality early childhood development and care to children throughout Oklahoma City for over 30 years. This award marks the single largest grant we’ve received in support of our early childhood programs,” said Jim Priest, Sunbeam President and CEO.
“Not only will these funds dramatically improve the development of young minds across our city, ensuring they will be school-ready, it will also significantly expand our reach to more than 550 children and allow us to change the future of these children and their families.”
Sunbeam currently operates three early childhood development centers, including OKC Educare, Tony Reyes Bilingual Center Early Head Start and Emerson Alternative High School Early Head Start programs, serving more than 250 children.
In order to fully execute and manage the expanded programming through the Early Head Start grant, Sunbeam will be adding 25 new jobs at their main campus located at 1100 NW 14th St., in addition to the 14 Early Head Start locations.
To lead the work of the new grant, Sunbeam has hired Paula Gates as Director of Early Childhood Services to manage all of Sunbeam’s early childhood programs. Gates returns to the Sunbeam team, having previously served as the Early Childhood Services Program Director at Sunbeam from 2004 – 2010.
“Sunbeam Family Services has been committed to children for over a 100 years, and now with the new Early Childhood Partnership grant, we are able to expand our high quality, research-based services to more at-risk children and families in the metro-area,” Gates said. “It is a very good day for Oklahoma City.”
Most recently, Gates worked as Early Childhood Education-Infant/Toddler Specialist Advisor throughout Oklahoma. She has a degree in early childhood education from the University of Oklahoma and serves on numerous early childhood boards and forums.
Gates joins Sunbeam as the agency opens its brand new, 45,000 square foot campus allowing the organization to better serve children, families and seniors in Oklahoma.
Founded in 1907, Sunbeam Family Services is one of Oklahoma’s oldest nonprofits, providing help, hope and the opportunity to succeed to people of all ages and all stages of life in central Oklahoma through a variety of programs in four areas of service: early childhood education, counseling, foster care and senior services.