It has been just over two months since Tanaina Early Childhood Development Center was informed it would need to vacate its space at the University of Alaska Anchorage. Now, the center has reached an agreement to stay temporarily at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church.
Tanaina was already planning on leaving their space at UAA for the summer while renovations are made to the Wells Fargo Sports Complex. So, the center was reaching out to St. Mary’s, but, Tanaina director Stephanie O’Brien says once the center found out it had to find a new home, the discussions changed course.
“Those conversations became a, ‘well how long could we stay here,’ and St. Mary’s is extremely kind and has been very generous to offer their space to us for as long as we need,” she said.
Reverend Michael Burke – the rector of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church – compares Tanaina’s situation to that of a neighbor who lost their home.
“Tanaina has lost their home, and that’s just tragic,” he said. “And we’re just a neighbor; we’re just a neighbor that says, ‘OK, we’ll double up as best we can and we’ll help and support you through this period while you figure out your next steps.'”
The church already serves 29 community organizations and non-profits each month. Despite all the activity, though, Burke says there’s plenty of room for Tanaina.
“We believe the people of St. Mary’s are up to the task; we believe Tanaina us up to the task,” Burke said. “We’ll all have to be patient with one another and we’ll have to be acutely aware of other people’s needs, but, I think this is something we can do.”
Burke says hosting Tanaina will not impact St. Mary’s Creative Preschool, but it will require some extra work over the weekends to accommodate the church’s Sunday school programs.
Discussions between UAA and Tanaina have been ongoing since early February. And Stephanie O’Brien says they will continue to explore future partnerships with the university.
“But right now their answer is ‘no,'” she said. “So we’re just kind of focusing on ok, great, we’re moving to St. Mary’s, they’re an amazing place to be, an amazing group of people and I think we’ll be a good fit.”
The University was providing Tanaina it’s current space free of charge. Tanaina will be paying rent in their new location, but O’Brien says St. Mary’s gave the childcare center a generous offer.
“It’s definitely affordable for us, and we’re able to be able to make the payments and take on those bills – totally fine,” O’Brien said. “Our enrollment will need to be at 100 percent at all times. So, we’re actively enrolling for our summer program for school-aged kids; we’ll have some spaces come up in preschool.”
Tanaina will keep it’s entire staff, and O’Brien says they will still be able to handle the same number of children.
Tanaina’s last full day at UAA is May 8 and will reopen at St. Mary’s on May 12.