Conway Cradle welcomes new director

by Renee Hunter
Mike Kemp photos

Things have been happening at Conway Cradle Care since Kelsey Powell took over in July as the organization’s executive director.

Powell said the childcare facility, located at First Presbyterian Church, 2400 Prince St., is in good shape. It is in compliance with all the various regulations and well on its way to completing Level 2 of the Better Beginnings program of the Arkansas Department of Human Services.

“Miss Diana [Byrd, former executive director] did a really great job in the childcare area,” Powell said. Powell felt the mentoring program could use some improvement, and she has focused on that for the past six months. “I wanted us to be more connected with our students outside Conway,” she said.

Powell goes to the Vilonia School District every other Friday and gives each Vilonia client 15 minutes of one-on-one mentoring. “They all have their own action plan set up,” she said.

On the other Fridays, parent meetings are held that focus on such skills as parenting and budgeting.

“Cradle Care is fortunate to have Kelsey,” said Anthony McMullen, vice chairman of the CCC board. “She has already committed her career to serving the needs of others, particularly children.”

Dominique Davis joined CCC in October as mentoring coordinator. She works with clients in Conway and CCC’s other venues. Currently, the two are mentoring 26 teens, including four teen dads.

Although it has a presence in Greenbrier, CCC has no clients there at this time. Powell said the two Greenbrier clients graduated in May.

Powell has also started individual tutoring for teens, using University of Central Arkansas student volunteers. Each Wednesday after dinner at First Presbyterian Church, teens and tutors focus on school work for an hour. “We have seen their grades go up significantly because of that,” Powell said.

“Kelsey has been our biggest blessing at this organization,” said McMullen. “She is absolutely dedicated to her students.”

Davis and Powell both have a deep connection to the CCC organization.

As a Conway High School junior, Powell worked as a volunteer in CCC’s childcare facility in connection with a child-development class. She followed that with a nine-month internship while completing her degree in family and consumer science at UCA.

Davis is a graduate of the CCC program, and like many of CCC’s graduates, she chose to continue her education. She graduated from UCA in December with a degree in sociology.

Both women are passionate about Cradle Care’s mission.

Powell says providing others with an opportunity for the same kind of connection with the CCC that she and Davis have is important to taking Cradle Care into the future.

Some of Powell’s connectivity goals include adding links to the CCC website on such topics as pregnancy prevention and good parenting. Cradle Care has focused on the former for several years with its “Prevent Teen Pregnancy” rallies.

“The more you know, the better prepared you can be for parenthood,” Powell said.

Powell will also continue reaching out to Cradle Care grads who want to attend college, a service that CCC has seen increasing in recent years.

Powell came to CCC from a job at United Way of Central Arkansas, where she had worked for six months, reading grants and interacting with client agencies.  “Working with United Way, I’ve read a ton of grants,” she said.

Besides writing grants, Powell wants to continue and grow the fundraisers already in place by reaching out to “all age levels” including former CCC grads, high school and college students and other young adults, as well as those older adults who were instrumental in starting CCC and who support it still.

“I think it’s important to be tied in to your community,” she said.

Powell knows fundraising is a vital part of keeping Cradle Care going and an area in which she sees connectivity as being especially important. She is already beginning to work on the non-profit’s annual fashion show fundraiser, which will probably be in mid-April.

“The good thing about Cradle Care is that the board is so active,” she said.  “Everybody has been so helpful.”