As they turn two years old, children grow by leaps and bounds as they jump from being babies to becoming toddlers. WSECU’s Inspired Learning for All partnership with the Hands On Children’s Museum celebrates a similar growth spurt as it passes the two-year mark. More than 32,000 children and their families have benefited from expanded access to the award-winning programs at the museum thanks to a major, five-year $1.1 million investment by WSECU.
Since its inception in February 2017, the impacts of the partnership between WSECU and Olympia’s Hands On Children’s Museum (HOCM) have grown “by leaps and bounds” in improving museum access to underserved children and family visitors in the first two years.
“The success of Inspired Learning for All, which has helped open the museum doors to so many families, is reason to celebrate,” said WSECU Board Chair Doug Mah. “WSECU took a naming rights opportunity and turned it into so much more.”
The initiative offers free admission to the first two family members receiving Washington State basic food assistance through an electronic benefits transfer (EBT) card. Additional family guests pay just $2 each. For perspective, general admission to the museum is $14.95. The EBT access program is the centerpiece of the partnership between the credit union and the museum.
Museum Executive Director Patty Belmonte reports impressive numbers. In its first year, about 12,500 visited under the EBT card access program. Numbers for 2018 topped that by about 60 percent, with more than 20,000 low-income guests served last year coming from all around western Washington.
“In its first two years, this partnership has been transformational for the museum and for thousands of families,” Belmonte said. “Thanks to WSECU’s investment, Hands On achieved an important milestone to become a national ‘Museum for All’.”
The Museum for All designation is presented by the Association of Children's Museums and the Institute of Museum and Library Services to recognize museums that encourage families of all backgrounds to visit regularly and build lifelong learning habits.
Without a doubt, the museum is a special place to any child who visits. As one mother from Shelton said, “Our kids have a blast here. “Being low-income, we have few opportunities to get out as a family. It is awesome to have a warm, dry place to play, learn and grow as a family.”
From its inception, the “Inspired Learning for All” partnership has been more for the credit union than a simple sponsorship. If offers a chance to support meaningful programming that can be transformative for families of young children.
“To be associated with a premier institution like the museum has value in itself,” Mah added. But the primary reason WSECU invested in Inspired Learning for All was to support early learning for the families that may have the most to gain from visiting.”
Research repeatedly shows early childhood education, which often looks like play, is essential to a strong foundation for later academic success.
The partnership between WSECU and HOCM has other components. In addition to the special EBT cardholder admission, the credit union’s investments support expanded mobile education programs and subsidized field trips for schools with large low-income populations.
It also brings value to those who are WSECU members. Credit union members receive a 10 percent discount on museum memberships and a 50 percent discount on “WSECU Wednesdays,” held the first Wednesday of each month.
Mah noted that it was important for WSECU to design the major partnership in a way that had multiple benefits for the credit union, including marketing exposure, member benefits and, mostly importantly, significant community impact.
“We are thankful for the collaboration and partnership of WSECU with Inspired Learning for All,” said Belmonte. “Our organizations’ shared values and commitment to investing in the success of the whole community is making a meaningful difference in children’s lives.”
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