Child care services cost, on average, more than $13,000 a year in Santa Barbara County, but Storyteller Children’s Center has been serving the community’s most at-risk children for free for the past 25 years.
On Wednesday, the preschool celebrated its permanent location at 2121 De La Vina Street. Serving more than 80 kids, the preschool has been at its current location since 2007. But now, thanks to generous private donations, government and community grants, and “creative ways,” Storyteller has purchased the property debt-free. For the past seven years, the Orfaela Foundation has been leasing the property to Storyteller rent-free. “We wouldn’t be here without the Orfaela Foundation,” said Storyteller Board Vice President Jon Clark, standing on the front porch behind a bright yellow ribbon. “The Orfaela Foundation is known for doing big things. We recognize that we are really little.”
But Storyteller is not a minuscule operation. The preschool serves approximately 80 low-income children (and another 85 are on the waiting list). Of those, almost 40 percent have varying degrees of special needs. It’s known for offering “wrap-around” services to uplift struggling parents and get them in school or back to work if necessary. “When kids are exposed to chaos or crowded situations, it affects their brain development,” said Terri Allison, the executive director. To make sure kids are ready for kindergarten, Allison went on, Storyteller takes a three-pronged approach by ensuring children are ready to learn, uplifting parents, and employing high-caliber teachers. The school also collaborates with CALM (Child Abuse Listening Mediation) and provides therapy to families in crisis.
With a $1.6 million budget, the preschool employs about a dozen certified teachers and one instructional aid and is open from 7:30 a.m.-5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. “It really fulfills a unique mission,” said Adrianna Foss, Orfaela Foundation Early Childhood Education Director.