A Place to Connect Local Families with Resources

Two women standing in front of a chalkboard and mural in a room at the PCC Hub site.

A place to connect local families with resources

Published Thursday, February 22, 2024 – 3:34pm by Mike Eldred/Deerfield Valley News

By Lauren Harkawik
New Parent Child Center Hub opens at Old School

WILMINGTON – Parents of young children now have a new local place to access support
services, arrange playdates, and catch their breath or share a cup of coffee with a friend.
Recently, Early Education Services opened a new Parent Child Center Hub at the Old School
Community Center.
The center, which is located on the second floor of the Old School Community Center, will
be open on Mondays and Thursdays from 9 am to 5 pm. Sandy Stark, Parent Child Center
Coordinator, and Katrina Gragen, who specializes in housing support for Early Education
Services, told The Deerfield Valley News that they aim to have the center be a home base of
sorts for parents from the valley and all of its surrounding towns.

Resources parents can find at the new center include a diaper bank, a clothing swap, a
computer and printer with internet access, parenting books, and support services
information. Resources, and the space itself, are available to all families in the 19 towns
that EES serves throughout Windham County. All of the services are free.
The hub also provides snacks for kids; coffee, tea, and water for parents; and a warm and
welcoming space where children can play together and where parents can connect. Stark
said that creating space where families may forge friendships with one another is one of
her biggest goals with the creation of the space. Under the state’s “Strengthening Families”
guidelines, social connections between families are considered a “protective factor” that
helps families — parents and children alike — thrive.
“Connections are huge,” said Stark.

To that end, Stark said, she loves the idea of parents meeting for playdates with their kids in
the space, or even parents dropping their kids off at Beaver Brook Children’s School
downstairs and then heading up to the Parent Child Center Hub to visit. “We have space to
just hang out,” said Stark.

Gragen, who will be working on-site at the center, said she aims to be a resource to all
families in terms of what support systems they may be able to access. Gragen’s job is
technically to connect families with housing, whether the family be unhoused,
underhoused, or seeking first-time home ownership. Gragen’s position has existed
under the Early Education Services umbrella for about a year. She said that in that year,
she’s had the opportunity to connect families with meaningful supports, including access to

“I know what people are eligible for,” said Gragen. “There’s no streamlined way to apply for
housing, so it can be really overwhelming and complicated. So a lot of what I do is helping
people make sense of how to apply for what they are eligible for. A lot of families just need

Gragen is also able to help families with budgeting, is certified to do car seat safety checks,
and in her housing work, she’s learned how to navigate nearly all of the support systems
available to families with young children. That makes her a good resource for all families
who may be stopping into the center, not just those who may need assistance with housing.
“Whatever the case may be, I’m able to connect families to resources,” she said.
Stark said it has always been her goal to make sure those who are living throughout
Windham County have the supports they need by way of community and access to
resources. She’s long coordinated play groups in Newfane and Whitingham; the Welcome
Baby program, which pairs new parents with information they may need about raising a
baby in the county; and Teddy Bear Teas, which allows children to visit the elementary
schools they’ll someday be students at.

“A lot of my job has been connecting families with each other,” said Stark. “And a big focus
since I’ve been in this role has been reaching out to the more rural communities. I feel like
they don’t know about the services that are out there, they don’t have as many
opportunities to connect with each other and find out about resources. I always say my
focus is to connect people with each other, with resources, and with their communities.”
The Whitingham playgroup, which had been held at the Whitingham library, will be moved
to the new Parent Child Center Hub. Stark said she hopes it will be a way to get people used
to the space and thinking about how they might utilize it themselves as parents.
“I’ve run playgroups for a long time, and parents will take their children there because
they’re doing something good for their child — and they are,” said Stark. “But I do them so
that the parents are connecting with each other.”
Stark and Gragen said that in addition to playgroups, they hope to host parenting classes
and support groups at the hub in the future.

More information about the center, and about EES’s programming, can be found online at
https://earlyeducationservices.org/ and on Facebook at



Sandy Stark, left, and Katrina Gragen, right, work for
Early Education Services. They’re pictured here in the
kids’ play area in EES’s newly-opened Parent Child
Center Hub at the Old School Community Center. 

Photo by Lauren Harkawik

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