"You helped us create a cozy classroom"

With a butterfly garden, a caterpillar cafeteria, a snowshoe trail and rows of vegetable plants, the Sandwich Children’s Center prizes outdoor, nature-oriented learning.

By 2016, its school-age classroom was pushing that a little too far. It was feeling more “outdoor” than “indoor.”

Years earlier, when the building was a hardware store, that room had been tacked on as storage space. It was dark, drafty, and so cold in winter that the school shut off the water to the bathroom so the pipes wouldn’t freeze. Water from a rocky ledge coursed under one sagging corner.

Preschool teacher reading a book to three children.“The room was constantly on our mind, thinking it was eventually going to fall off the side of this building,” says Center Director Karyn Ames. “We just couldn’t have the kids in there anymore.”

Early education centers often need to fundraise for basic supplies and very rarely have savings to put toward major building repairs. That’s true of the Sandwich Children’s Center, which cares for children from infants to age 12, and where nearly half the students get tuition assistance from the state or from the Center itself.

Needing the room as quickly as possible, Karyn turned to the Community Loan Fund for a bridge loan after a tax credit grant was approved from the New Hampshire Community Development Finance Authority. The grant money would arrive over two years and pay for most of the project, with the rest raised from the community.

The loan allowed them to demolish, then rebuild the classroom, and renovate a bathroom to make it wheelchair-accessible.

This spring, the school-age students returned to a bright, airy classroom, with a vaulted ceiling and inset lights. Books, puzzles, and games filled the shelves around a woodworking bench and a light table (donated by Community Loan Fund staff) with magnet tiles and geometric shapes.

And the section of the room that had been in danger of collapsing? It’s now a sun-cozy reading corner.

Learn more about the Community Loan Fund's lending to child care facilities.

This story appeared in the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund’s 2018 annual report.