Four year olds wearing hard hats shovelled dirt alongside Palm Beach philanthropists to officially open construction on the new Opportunity Early Childhood Education & Family Center. The rest of the preschoolers, watched and cheered from across the street during the groundbreaking ceremony on Thursday, January 19.
“Every parent, regardless of their financial situation wants the best for their child. We know that there is a need for affordable, high quality early childhood education in our community, because the list of children waiting to get into Opportunity is consistently over 300,” said Opportunity Executive Director Ali Eger. “We are excited to start construction, open the doors, and welcome more families.”
A 3.7acre site at the corner of Donnell Road and Westgate Avenue was donated anonymously and generous individuals and foundations have helped the non-profit raise $7 million of its $15.6 million capital campaign goal.
“After 25 years of living in this special place, Jill and I have become deeply committed to the acute need for early childhood education in the Westgate neighborhood of West Palm Beach, and a short distance from the Town of Palm Beach,” said Opportunity donor David Gilmour. “This is the tenth school that Jill and I have funded around the United States and in other countries. These experiences have proven to us that education from birth until elementary school for children at risk is the most impressionable period of their development and when lifelong character is formed. This directly relates to include a positive or negative direction that ultimately determines their entire lives. Recognizing this severe societal need, Jill and I were pleased to donate $2 million to underwrite the construction costs of a modern and much larger school for Opportunity. We are deeply honored that this new school will be named the Erin H. Gilmour Early Learning Center after our late daughter. This commitment to early childhood education is the only answer that we can see that will reverse the tragic inequities in the education of children at risk in our community and I am so pleased that many others in Palm Beach have joined in this effort.”
Since 1939, Opportunity has been providing developmental programs to the children of working families in Palm Beach County. The new 22,000 square foot state-of-the-art facility, designed by Glidden Spina and Partners, will allow Opportunity to serve as many as 285 children. Construction is expected to be complete by the end of 2017.