State Senator Anthony Palumbo has recognized the Eleanor Whitmore Early Childhood Center in East Hampton with the Empire State Award, the highest honor that can be given by a New York State legislator, for its service to the community over the last 50 years.
“For me, as executive director, it says we’re really fulfilling our goal and objective in continually reaching out and contributing to our community in a variety of different ways,” said Tim Frazier, a retired public-school principal who has led the Eleanor Whitmore Center since September 2020.
During the award presentation on Dec. 19, Mr. Frazier said he had “a great conversation” with Mr. Palumbo. “He was very interested in what we have been doing and seemed very supportive. We walked away that afternoon feeling good that our representatives are really attuned to the need for high-quality child care and early childhood education. It’s exciting to work with all the levels of governance and see their enthusiasm for our program.”
The Eleanor Whitmore Center has an enrollment of about 100 children between the ages of 18 months and 4 years in its day care and prekindergarten programs. There are about 50 families on a waiting list for toddler care. Mr. Frazier said that in the center’s future he sees a transition toward more educational day care and away from prekindergarten, which he said “is not a real need right now because the public schools have stepped up to that.”
The center is also joining with Amber Waves Farm in Amagansett and the Slow Foods organization to create an outdoor classroom complete with raised garden beds. “We really can’t transport kids that well because of their age,” Mr. Frazier said, “but we can bring something here that gives them that outside experience.” Amber Waves and Slow Foods “have done a great job putting that together in a curriculum.”
Looking ahead, Mr. Frazier said a similar partnership is in the works with the South Fork Natural History Museum for science, technology, engineering, and math, or STEM, education. The center is also in the early stages of working with a donor to boost its early-childhood literacy program. Its food pantry service is ongoing, and it has applied for state grants for more safety measures and maintenance of the facilities.
“For over half a century, the Eleanor Whitmore Early Childhood Center has provided excellent care and nurtured a lifelong passion for learning for children and families throughout the region,” Mr. Palumbo said in a statement. “I thank them for their commitment to our community and for their extraordinary work and dedication in caring for and educating generations of young students.”