Ella Chapman

Ella Chapman explores bird houses in Ohio University's Child Development Center's garden.

Photographer: Katie Pack

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Gift to Child Development Center encourages community growth

The Child Development Center in the Gladys W. and David H. Patton College of Education recently received a $145,000 gift from alumna Elizabeth Farmer. The gift is being used to establish the Elizabeth Farmer, Lynda Jones, Kimberly Parish Farmer Family Endowment for the Child Development Center (CDC).

The endowment is consistent with the mission, purpose and functions of the CDC. Thanks to the gift, the CDC will be able to support programs, activities and training as well as access research and resources crucial to enhancing parental skills, involvement, and the nurturing and holistic development of the children they serve.

The CDC, established in 1972, is a learning lab for OHIO students who are interested in early childhood education. The center aims to provide "a venue for both faculty and students to advance research in the understanding of the young child," explained Dean of the Patton College Renee Middleton.

Elizabeth "Betty" Farmer has close ties to the OHIO community. She is an alumna of the University and earned her degree in home economics in 1942. She even met her future husband, business major Leonard Farmer, on the Athens Campus. Farmer was involved in philanthropy even as a student, and worked with Alpha Gamma Delta during her time at OHIO.

Today, Farmer's home economics would be something more similar to the Patton College's Department of Human and Consumer Sciences Education. Although the particular name of her degree evolved, the home stayed the same and so it made sense for Farmer to give back to Patton and to OHIO.

"It's my alma mater," explained Farmer. "It was such an important part of my life."

The gift is a lump sum donation that Farmer hopes will be put to good use to better influence the lives of children in Athens. She is quick to add that the gift also will benefit the parents of these children.

Cathy Waller, director of the CDC, reiterated that the parent-student relationship is important to the institution and in the life of a school.

Working with donors such as Farmer helps the CDC create "effective strategies to work with parents and build a strong classroom and community, which is crucial to the CDC's success," Waller said.

One of the programs Waller and the CDC community hope to provide is an increased focus on teaching the children healthy eating habits. One of the avenues for this is the CDC's garden, which provides a year-round learning experience for students, with most of the work occurring in the spring and fall. Families are encouraged to be part of the garden experience by volunteering to help with Garden Work Day or the yearly Garden Party, donating materials for the garden and helping with the garden's maintenance.

"Children are having hands on experiences with growing food from seeds or plants, (so) they are choosing to eat foods that perhaps parents would not think to offer, such as radishes, zucchini and different types of lettuces and herbs," Waller said.

Waller and the CDC staff will be working closely with families to brainstorm other ideas.

"Teachers have ongoing, daily face-to-face communication with the parents and guardians of every child, which presents the opportunity to develop strong relationships and the feeling of community," said Waller. "Input from teachers and families will be very important."

Tim Binegar, director of development at the Patton College, spoke highly of Farmer, whom he considers a well-rounded and humble individual.

"Stories like (Farmer's) demonstrate that Ohio University is always moving forward," Binegar said. "The alumni are special to the institution, and we're indebted to Betty for her generosity."

Middleton agreed that OHIO alumni such as Farmer are vitally important to the institution.

"Our students, faculty and alumni have a track record of working hand-in-hand with communities to turn around schools, service agencies and community organizations; they change lives in positive ways," she said. "Gifts like this help us forge ahead with creative programming and collaborations and partnerships that bridge gaps, solve problems and create productive citizens."

"In a way, the promise lives in Betty," Binegar said. "She is the promise to those kids. It's important to remember that those kids (at the CDC) are going to grow up and become students and citizens of Athens. (Betty's gift) presents them with the opportunities to do so."

The gift counts as part of The Promise Lives Campaign for Ohio University, which has raised $409 million toward its goal of securing $450 million by 2015 in support of students, faculty, programs, facilities and community partnerships.

For more information about The Promise Lives Campaign, visit www.ohio.edu/campaign.