TC Campus Will Enable Children of Diverse Abilities and Their Caregivers to Thrive
The Together Center (TC) proudly hosts over twenty nonprofits in its groundbreaking campus of human services nonprofits in the heart of Redmond. This exciting model of co-locating affordable housing with nonprofits in an attractive downtown area within easy access of public transportation is set to galvanize community connections that will benefit countless residents across East King County.
Among the largest of our community-focused organizations is Kindering, founded 60 years ago by five local mothers of children with disabilities. Today this thriving nonprofit is a thought leader in its field of early support and learning and operates across four locations in East King County. Its therapists and administrative staff provide pediatric therapy, specialized early learning, and family education support to the diverse families and caregivers of more than 10,000 children in our area.
Since its founding in 1962, Kindering has continually expanded its offerings; as of this year it runs 23 different programs, ranging from a NICU team to their Kids’ Clinic program which serves children up to their 11th birthday. This breadth of service reflects their focus on ensuring that children with complex needs receive not just individualized therapy but also the wraparound support required for them and their families to thrive in their homes, schools, and the wider community.
Prior to the pandemic, there was already a burgeoning need for Kindering’s expertise and innovated programs like its Families in Transition (FIT) services, driven by rising homelessness and housing instability on the Eastside. As they searched for a fourth campus in addition to their Bellevue, Bothell, and Renton facilities, Redmond naturally came to the fore as the nonprofit’s most densely populated service area.
Together Center’s campus offered proximity to other human service nonprofits that enabled delivery of the wraparound care so essential to Kindering’s mission and in 2019 they joined our campus. Lisa Greenwald, Kindering’s CEO explains that “thanks to being located in the Together Center, we have built strong relationships with the other agencies and can easily refer our families to their services.”
Because some of Kindering’s support programs call for staff to work with children in their homes, they are able to observe other life needs that should be addressed as part of providing community-embedded services to children with developmental needs. Kindering’s clients come from all walks of life, and while many families are fortunate to have sufficient insurance or household income to cover the costs of therapy, many families in the area have no support other than the supports they can access through the Together Center hub. For example, one family served by Kindering was housed in a unit that had inconsistent utilities and a broken front door lock. In consultation with the Eastside Legal Assistance Program (ELAP), Kindering’s family resource coordinators helped the family advocate for their tenants’ rights to make their home environment safe and more conducive to a better therapy outcome. On other occasions, Kindering has worked on training for supporting caregivers through collaboration with a TC co-tenant, the Washington chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). At other times, the Muslim Community Resource Center (MCRC), also part of TC hub, has provided food, rental assistance, and transportation support to the families of Kindering’s young clients.
Katie Franzheim, Kindering’s Program Manager in Redmond describes the crucial role co-location with other human services nonprofits plays in their mission delivery: “In order [for] the children we work with to thrive with the therapy support we give, we do need to support the whole family, and sometimes that includes connecting them to food support, housing and transportation, [linking them to] community groups, [and assistance with] transitions to school district services. [If these things are] the primary concern, then [caregivers don’t have] a lot of energy and space to think about therapy or child development. All of these supports are available here at the Together Center.”
Keeping pace with the rapid population growth in Redmond, Kindering estimates the increase in its enrollment at a conservative 8-10% annually. Thanks to the Together Center redevelopment, Kindering is now looking forward to tripling its square footage in the new, expanded campus. This additional built space will mean more comprehensive program offerings for the community, including gross motor space for onsite classes, a large therapy gym to provide physical and occupational therapies, and additional treatment rooms for speech-language therapy within their Kids’ Clinic program. Due to current space constraints, Kindering can only serve children up to age 3 at their Redmond facility. The new TC campus will allow them to support children up through age 10 -- well into their clients’ transition into the school system.
While Kindering has also ramped up its virtual support programs and tele-therapy sessions during the Covid lockdowns, the importance of expanded physical space has many benefits that radiate out to the community at large. The diversity found in Redmond’s population makes culturally competent and accessible care crucial, and in-person interactions to facilitate connections is irreplaceable. Together Center CEO, Kim Sarnecki, points out that “nearly half of the clients who visit TC are part of the BIPOC community.” This represents another point of convergence between the Together Center and Kindering: that of ensuring health equity for all. In its commitment to lowering access barriers to its programs, Kindering offers some services in Spanish and partners with TC co-tenants such as Indian American Community Services (IACS) to reach out to the community with developmental screenings that families may not otherwise hear about. TC’s own Cultural Navigation program allows families to access language support and interpretation assistance, further widening access to the benefits of Kindering’s therapeutic programs.
Together Center’s location within easy walking distance of the Redmond Transit Center also made it an ideal anchor for Kindering as it aims to be “easy to reach” for all families and, indeed, for its own employees. To keep up with rising demand in Redmond, Kindering will be hiring more occupational and physical therapists, speech therapists, special educators, and administrative staff. TC’s proximity to public transportation will make commuting easier for patients and therapists alike. As growth on the Eastside continues, the need for affordable and workforce housing looms as a real concern for nonprofits seeking to respond to heightened need in the community. The value of TC’s integrated model -- featuring five stories of housing right above its nonprofit hub -- promises to be a nation-leading approach to making compassionate support for community members tangible.
As Katie Franzheim points out, “The expanded campus will be a lot more visible to the Redmond community, so by being more visible and having more space, we’ll be able to have less barriers for families to find us and come in our doors to get the help they need. If we can give help more easily and more frequently to people, then we’ll have a better and healthier community for sure.”
And, she adds, “A healthier community means a higher quality of life for everyone.” We at Together Center couldn’t agree more. We’re excited to help Kindering’s expansion become a reality for our neighbors, with the extraordinary help of our major donors and generous contributions from the public.
Learn more about Kindering: https://kindering.org/