|Posted on November 12, 2016 at 12:55 AM|
Last Sunday, November 6th, we had our first Community Outreach meeting to talk about some of our plans for The Earth Tortoise School and what we need to do to get there. We had a good turn out and great discussion with ideas shared and energy built up. Thank you to everyone that attended and to those of you who couldn’t make it but expressed an interest in staying updated and being involved.
Here is a breakdown of what was discussed:
1) The house that we currently reside in, 221 NE 117th Ave, was owned by Maya’s mother-in-law. She has recently passed away. It is now held in trust by her two sons. However, the house cannot stay in the trust for an extended amount of time. It must be bought from the trust. Erin and Maya have considered and looked into the possibility of purchasing the house themselves. However a concern that came up during this investigation is that this purchase might extend their income to debt ratio, and therefore their available credit, to a point that would prohibit future loans. As it is our hope to eventually grow and move out of 221, future loans are an important consideration. With this in mind, having a third party investor purchase the house seems like a possible solution. As we work with possible investors, we want all of you to know that this will in no way affect the day to day operations of The Earth Tortoise School. We will only work with someone whom we know and trust to have our best interests at heart. If you have any questions or concerns about this now or as this process moves forward, please come to us at any time.
2) Erin and Maya have been building a vision for The Earth Tortoise School from its inception. We now see this need to eventually move from our current location as the opportunity and driving force to manifest this vision. It includes a beautiful new space that has room for a non-mobile infant classroom, a mobile infant classroom, and a toddler classroom. We are considering also opening a preschool classroom as we see the need for high quality and education growing in East Portland. A preschool classroom also provides financial viability as larger teacher-child ratios for older children creates more income for the whole program as a whole. We would like to have a nature-scape outdoor space with room for exploring, gross motor experiences, sensory experiences, animals, and a garden. And finally, we would like to have multi-purpose space. This would be a space that the children at The Earth Tortoise School would benefit from as an indoor gross motor space, a community gathering space for Parent Education Nights and other community events, or for extra-curricular activities such as music class and large art activities. It could also serve as a space that could benefit the larger community. We envision family focused classes, workshops, support groups, support resources, etc. having a home here.
3) In order to facilitate some of these community programs to their fullest, we have decided to create a non-profit organization separate from The Earth Tortoise School. This would grant us access to grants, financing and other resources that privately owned businesses do not have. It would also set the tone for a community driven, community based resource for children and families that could have far reaching significance as we hope to both create certain programs but also partner with already established programs in the area.
4) So getting down to the nitty-gritty… We have lot of work ahead of us. As our jumping off point, we need to:
a. Settle on the ownership of 221 NE 117th Ave
b. Create a non-profit organization
c. Create a business plan with budget projections for both The Earth Tortoise School and the new non-profit
d. Research and then secure financing options – loans through the SBA and private banks; private investors, grants, and fundraising, etc.
e. Find a new space – ensuring zoning, occupancy, and licensing requirements
We are reaching out to our amazing community for help. Erin and Maya are in the classroom most days. Simply, finding the time to accomplish these tasks is tricky. We are also not as knowledgeable in some of these areas as the members of our extended network. So one of the ideas that came out of this meeting is to establish task groups to facilitate some of these action items with a central coordinator. In the next few days to weeks, we will be reaching out again to establish these task groups. In the meantime, if there is something in particular that you would like to become involved with or have a strength that you could share, please let us know. We have started a volunteer list. Expertise and experience in business planning, budget projections, financing and fundraising, and non-profits are resources we will lean on at this point in our venture.
Once again, thank you so much for your support, input and help.
Warmly and with love,
Maya Bowen and Erin Tooze
The Earth Tortoise School