The Nancy Travis project was initiated in 1996 to provide child care for children of homeless families who were living at the Athens Area Homeless Shelter. Families had to leave the shelter during the day and seek employment. This meant that many parents of infants, toddlers and preschoolers took their young children with them as they roamed the streets applying and interviewing for jobs. Some parents, fearing that doing so would lessen their chances of being hired, left the children with friends; sometimes these were not safe places. Because the parents were unemployed, they were not eligible for federal child care subsidies through the Childcare and Parent Services (CAPS) program and they certainly could not pay for child care on their own.
The parents began calling Care Connection, the child care resource and referral program at Community Connection/Family Connection trying to find some way to obtain care for their children while they sought employment. Community Connection responded to this need by garnering donations from community organizations and individuals and, in 1996, opening a child care center in a small building belonging to the Young Harris Memorial Methodist Church. The center was named The Nancy Travis House in honor of Nancy Travis who was the founder of Save the Children and a tireless advocate for children in Georgia and throughout the world.
The new center’s director, Ovita Thornton, reported success after nine months of operation: “The center has served 48 homeless children…Ten mothers have found and maintained employment and another two have found permanent housing.”
The Child Care Voucher Program. The Nancy Travis project continues to serve homeless children, but in a different role. Due to a variety of factors including fluctuating enrollments and the need for after-school care, the Nancy Travis Advisory Committee decided in 1999 to close the child care center and provide vouchers that parents could use to obtain child care in licensed child care homes and centers in the community.
To raise funds for the voucher program, the Nancy Travis project held its first Trot for Tots 5K race and Tike Hike in 2002. The race has become a successful annual fund-raising event. In 2003, Community Connection turned administration of the project over to the Athens Area Homeless Shelter.
Hope for Babies. In 2008, the Nancy Travis project added Hope for Babies, a new program initiated by the OneAthens Early Care and Education Team. The OneAthens Team recognized that while Georgia has HOPE scholarships for students to attend college, if children don’t do well in school they don’t make it to college.
Research has demonstrated that children who start school behind tend to stay behind. This is especially true for many children living in poverty yet their opportunities for attending quality child care are limited. The amount paid by the federal child care subsidies (the CAPS program) that helps low-income families pay for child care is not sufficient for the children to attend the quality-certified programs they need. The Hope for Babies scholarships bridge the gap between the cost of quality child care and the amount paid for by the CAPS subsidy plus the parent’s co-pay. A generous grant from the Newland Foundation kicked off the 2009 fund-raising campaign for this new program.
In 2010,under its new name, Nancy Travis Hope for Babies/Care for Kids, the organization acquired its own 501 c-3 status, developed a governing board, and assumed administration of the project.