Foundation gives kids a stronger start at school

Kids play around a parachute at the East Wake Education Foundation, which helps children in Wendell, Zebulon and Knightdale prepare for school.
Kids play around a parachute at the East Wake Education Foundation, which helps children in Wendell, Zebulon and Knightdale prepare for school. Courtesy of East Wake Education Foundation

It’s not easy being a kid. Or a parent. There are no rule books, no FAQs, no instruction manuals.

The East Wake Education Foundation in Wendell knows all about that – and how to help. The nonprofit foundation is dedicated to helping children in Wendell, Zebulon and Knightdale “arrive at school age healthy and ready to learn” and helping moms and dads learn how to be better parents.

About 80 percent of the children the 22-year-old foundation serves come from low-income families, said Executive Director Linda Johnson. Children from birth to age 5 are welcome – but their parents must participate.

She said this is the only program of its kind in the state that requires the parent, grandparent or care provider to participate along with the child.

“The investment in our children is the most important investment we can make in life,” Johnson said.

A staff of three teaches, through play, art and other activities, and the basics of life: how to button a coat, the names of things, letters, and names of the colors. Children learn by doing – singing and dancing as they learn how to listen, how to follow directions and how to share. In homes where parents are working multiple jobs or simply are not home during the day, children often are left on their own to learn such basic lessons. As a result, many disadvantaged children have a harder start when they get to school.

They need this environment and so do I.

Raquel Dexter, a Zebulon mother of three

Raquel Dexter of Zebulon has been a part of the foundation – with her three little boys, ages 4, 3 and 1, in tow – for two years. She also sometimes brings her neighbor’s son along.

“They need this environment and so do I,” she said. “It gives us as parents an opportunity for our kids to learn to sit in circle, do songs and dance, and take the lead from someone other than mama.”

The foundation has helped her parenting. “There’s a full library there, for the kids and there is a lot for the parents,” she said. “There’s a book there to help if you’re having trouble with a child not sleeping through the night.”

It’s a safe environment for child and parent – and it’s fun.

“It’s like a mini-sized Marbles,” Dexter said, laughing.

All services, classes and programs are free to the participants. Foundation funding comes from a number or sources – contributions, grants, fundraising events and some from the Wake County commissioners. The foundation also partners with more than 40 organizations and individuals.

This year, Johnson said, they will serve about 2,000 children, teaching in both English and Spanish. In some cases, kids are served via a mobile unit that is equipped like a preschool classroom.

Johnson said the foundation always welcomes donations to ensure that these children will continue to get help – especially when their families can’t afford it. She said she spends much of the year going door to door to partners and potential donors in the three communities asking for support.Return to Triangle Gives 2015

East Wake Education Foundation

P.O. Box 1404

Wendell, N.C. 27597


Contact: Linda Johnson, 919-366-5901

Description: The East Wake Education Foundation is a community-based nonprofit that serves families in Eastern Wake County. It was established in 1993 to serve as an advocacy agency for our area schools and to work to assure that every child has the opportunity to arrive at school age healthy and ready to learn. All services are free and provided in both English and Spanish. Our program works with the entire family, and early childhood services are offered for families with children birth to five. Emphasis is placed on introduction to reading, improvement of listening skills and activities that enhance the gross and fine motor skills of the child. For parents, our work helps them understand child development stages, how positive discipline works and how to promote healthy interaction within the family unit.

Donations needed: Any monetary donation or supplies are welcomed.

$10 would buy: A new toy for our Resource Center; paper, crayons or craft materials.

$20 would buy: Several books for our lending library for our families or healthy snacks.

$50 would buy: Books, paper, craft materials and hands-on items for learning.

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