The Packer’s National Editor Tom Karst chatted June 29 with Bill Coats, director of communications and marketing for Redlands Christian Migrant Association, Immokalee, Fla. Read entire chat on the Fresh Talk blog.
11 a.m. Tom Karst: How do you describe what your organization does and what it is all about?
Coats 11:01 a.m. Bill Coats: The number one thing we do is provide quality child care to children of the rural poor in Florida. We operate 80 child care centers in 21 counties. On top of that, we operate two charter schools, one in the Tampa area and one in Immokalee on the same campus as our state headquarters.
11:03 a.m. Karst: How many kids overall do you serve?
11:04 a.m. Coats: Almost 8,000 per year.
11:04 a.m. Karst: Some of those kids are related to the migrant work force in Florida, right?
11:05: Coats: That’s right. First of all, we locate all of our child care centers as close to the farms as we can get them. In fact, more than a few of the child care centers are in rent free facilities provided by farming corporations on their property.
It is an odd form of daycare. When the rest of schools are open in early September and late August, most of our Migrant Head Start centers are not, because the kids are still up north with their families picking things like cherries in Delaware, sugar beets in Michigan or apples in New York.
They arrive in late October. We encourage those families to go ahead and enroll their children in schools wherever they are and we can have a lot of relationships with a lot of schools up north because of that.
Those kids come down in late October, and when we open those centers, they are often open from dark to dark, from before dawn to dusk because that is how long the parents work.
Migrant Head Start funding gives you the flexibility to care for them that way.
11:06 a.m. Karst: Besides Head Start, you also receive support from the agriculture industry as well, correct?
11:07 a.m. Coats: All of our fundraising has agriculture at the heart of it. We get a lot of financial support from farm companies. The chairman of our board is Mike Stuart, president of the Maitland-based Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association. Our relationship to agriculture is second in importance only to our relationship with our children’s families.