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BANANAS, Inc.
May 1, 2011

Over the past 3 decades I have had the opportunity to use the many services provided by BANANAS, first as a client and more recently as a high school teacher and preschool program director. In 1978 I moved to the bay area, a single mother – no family or support system, job or source of income – with only the confidence and determination to create a better life for my son and myself. My first task was to find child care for my son and I was fortunate to meet a woman who told me about an agency that provided services for woman and children including free referrals of child care programs. After talking with the woman at BANANAS, I left with a list of child care programs and camps to contact and the feeling I was no longer alone. My story is not unique. It has been retold many times and in many different languages and even if the circumstances vary, clients like myself come to this non-profit for services that assist woman and families and leave with answers to their questions and a relief that life just became a little easier.

As I pursued my career and made a life for my son and myself, BANANAS grew in size and reputation, expanded their services and increased their staff and clientele. In 1998, I was hired to teach child development classes – an elective course designed for high school students to investigate careers working with children. Students receive instruction in class and then apply their knowledge by working with children in our onsite preschool. Twenty years had passed since my first experience with BANANAS but when I walked inside their new location, not only did I feel the same warm reception but to my surprise I recognized several women who remembered me. And just like before, I talked about my need for resources that would supplement my textbooks and walked away with shopping bags full of informational brochures and handouts, relating to the content areas listed in my course outline as well as local publications and names of other nonprofit agencies dealing with a myriad of issues bay area families face every day as they attempt to keep their children safe and healthy. Resources including a Lending Video Library, workshops, classes, school presentations are just a few examples of ways BANANAS has enriched my curriculum. BANANAS provide a context for my students to gain an understanding of the lessons they learn in class.

In my review of BANANAS, I have described some of the services they offer as a resource and referral agency for Northern Alameda County especially those which have made a difference for me as a woman, a mother and a teacher. Recently I have seen BANANAS in what I consider their most important role, as advocates for quality child care programs. After serving the community for 30 years, administrative decisions threatened to close our preschool. When news of the potential elimination of our preschool program reached BANANAS, they were the first ones to stand up in support of our preschool. The Executive Director came to every meeting closure of the preschool was on the agenda, helped us strategize, work together and organize community support. At a time when BANANAS was dealing with massive budget cuts impacting preschools through out the state, I was surprised and thankful for the attention our preschool received. And when I expressed my appreciation, I heard the humble response “this is what we do!” Thank you, BANANAS, for doing it so well!

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