A Message from Julie

August 17, 2020

As I write, it has been five months to the day since we were forced by COVID-19 to close our doors to the public. In the hectic weeks that followed, our extraordinary Board and staff were determined that we would find new ways to educate the community and inspire action for a healthy planet in the midst of a pandemic.

Photo: Turk’s-cap Lily by Hitchcock Center Educator Katie Koerten.

We needed time and resources to redesign our programs and rethink our financial model. Each month that our programs remained on hiatus meant that an average of 1,000 people, people of all ages and from varied socioeconomic backgrounds, would be without important environmental and outdoor education. Each month also meant an average loss of $57,000 in expected revenue.

But with the Center closed, our staff temporarily furloughed and all revenue-generating activities cancelled, the situation seemed dire. How could we bring our staff back to work to rebuild our programming?

So we turned to our community for help. And you, our community, responded.

We did not expect such an overwhelming outpouring of goodwill and support. Your contributions made up every dollar of the $230,000 in revenue we have lost to date due to cancelled programs and fundraising events. With your incredible generosity, along with a Payroll Protection Program loan, we were able to bring back our staff and develop new programs that meet strict health and safety standards for the virus. We are so grateful for your support.

Thanks to you, this spring we were able to pilot four newly developed virtual school field trips with nine classrooms in western Massachusetts. These field trips will continue to be an essential resource for elementary schools seeking to maintain high quality standards-based STEM education for their students during the academic year.

And this summer, we began offering over 50 all-outdoor, in-person, small-group programs that serve children and family members. Given the economic strain that so many are facing, we created a new sliding-scale fee structure that is sensitive to our families in financial need.

We are now preparing for the fall to help schools with their reopening plans. We are providing workshops for teachers about using their schoolyard for improved outdoor STEM education. We are planning a variety of programs for children—some in-person and some virtual—to support their education and social-emotional development. Soon, we will unveil a comprehensive fall environmental and outdoor program plan to help families fill the gaps of new school models that districts across the state are adopting.

We look forward to sharing this and more with you in the coming weeks. Thank you for all your kind messages, your financial commitment, and your belief in this important work. We hope you are finding your own way through these unusual times, and that you and your loved ones are healthy and safe.

Sincerely,

Julie Johnson
Executive Director

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