Saludas Bouncing Babies program example of grassroots ideas success

Published 3:31 pm Thursday, March 18, 2010

Two years ago, a small group of parents approached the Rutherford/Polk Smart Start Partnership with a request for startup funds for materials to get the Bouncing Babies program going in Saluda. Up until then, the parents and babies were getting together informally on their own in upstairs space of the Saluda Branch of the Polk County Public Library.

With a $200 donation from the Partnership and other small donations from anonymous Polk County citizens, the group purchased a suitable rug to cushion the floor of the library space for the babies and bought other needed basic materials for music and movement activities.

Once Saluda Librarian Margaret Easley took on the task of planning and leading activities for the weekly group, through word of mouth, more families found out about the opportunity and the program has continually grown. As the babies from the original group became toddlers, some of the families were having their second babies. The parents in the group agreed that since the toddlers were still enjoying the time together, they would expand the program to include toddlers and preschoolers. An average of 30 parents and children now attend.

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One of the parents, Scott Kinard, is volunteering on a regular basis to lead the activities for the group. There is now an array of singing, dancing, listening to stories, fingerplays, counting and much more. With the support of the Polk County Library, the Bouncing Babies program has continued to be a tremendous success.

Families from Saluda and beyond gather every Thursday from 10 to 11 a.m. at the Saluda Branch Library to play and learn with their children and they welcome new families to join them. For information, call the library at 828-749- 2117.

Parents involved from the beginning of the program say that one of the biggest benefits of the program has been the opportunity that it provides parents, grandparents, and other caregivers to meet on a regular basis, talk about whats going on with their children, swap stories and tips, often extend the growing network to the playground across the street or to playdates later in the week.

It is a great example of a small community grassroots idea that needed a little help to get it going and the people in the community were able to turn that help into something beneficial and long-lasting for current and future babies and toddlers in the county.

According to Cathy Brooks, the director of program and planning for the Rutherford/Polk Smart Start Partnership, the Partnership would like to see more of these parent-generated ideas for programs in our communities, and we welcome parent groups to contact us and discuss their ideas.

The Polk County Partnership for Children and the Rutherford County Partnership for Children both started out over 12 years ago with a focus on planning programs to meet the unique needs of families in our rural counties. Most of the funding for local partnerships comes through the NC statewide Smart Start initiative, which is limited to serving children birth to five years of age.

The Polk County Partnership had sponsored childrens hearing and vision screenings, parenting programs, dental screenings, the Fun N Learning Resource Library and several programs to help improve the quality and affordability of child care in the county, but was best known for the annual Childrens Fair at Harmon Field, which was funded by various grants throughout the years.

In 2006, the Polk County and Rutherford County Partnerships merged to form Rutherford/Polk Smart Start. Although the level of Smart Start funding from the state has decreased over the past few years, the Rutherford/Polk Partnership continues to provide parenting and family support programs in both counties, along with childcare related programs. Fundraising projects and grants also give the Partnership the ability to support small local projects that are outside the scope of the Smart Start programs.

For more information about the Smart Start Partnership, contact Barry Gold, executive director, at 828-287-2775, or Cathy Brooks at 828-625-4008.