Richmond, VA (October 4, 2013) -- The Children's Museum of Richmond and Commonwealth Parenting announced today that they are merging the two organizations as of September 1, 2013.
"It is a partnership that has grown naturally over the years and because of that, the strategy aligned well," explained Wally Stettinius, VCU professor of business. Stettinius served on the Task Force that recommended the merger to CMoR's Board of Trustees on August 28. "Everybody wants to see mergers in the nonprofit community, but they only make sense if they advance each side's mission. This is a great case study of how that can happen."
The Children's Museum of Richmond changed its mission statement in 2009 to reflect its focus on parent engagement. "Our Board of Trustees started a great conversation around expanding our impact and developed three main strategy directions as a result," said Karen Coltrane, CMoR president and CEO. "The first two involved serving more people, hence our branching plan and the 100% increase in the number of visitors who pay less than the admission price to visit. The third strategy spoke to deepening our impact through parent and caregiver education. "So in 2011, we hired a director of parent engagement and started working to build our capabilities in this area. Commonwealth Parenting has been our partner for years, so this seemed like a natural next step."
"It is challenging for any organization like a museum to have a deep impact when a child visits for just two to three hours once in a while," said Paul Van De Putte, Chair of CMoR's Board of Trustees. "But if we can give that child's adult some knowledge or an idea that he or she can really use going forward, we've had a much greater impact. So we've been heading in that direction."
Commonwealth Parenting has been serving Central Virginia with parent education resources for nearly 30 years. In that time, the organization has assisted more than 40,000 families. The organization's family educators and accredited experts provide instruction on a wide-range of topics through classroom and private session settings, as well as staff a Parenting Hotline. While many organizations exist to serve children, Commonwealth Parenting has always focused exclusively on the needs of parents. "There is no training manual that comes with what is arguably one of the most challenging jobs we ever do," said Samantha Otero, an attorney with McCandlish Holton PC and chair of Commonwealth Parenting's Board of Directors. "Commonwealth Parenting was created to not only help parents learn from experts about specific topics, but to support them in the knowledge that they are not alone in their situations and challenges."
While successfully serving an increasing number of parents, as a relatively small nonprofit with $200,000 in revenue last year, Commonwealth Parenting has been challenged to expand its reach. "We know we have had a great deal of impact for a very small budget," continued Otero, "but we could all see the possibilities of taking the quality product we offer and promoting it through the regional reach of the Children's Museum. It really does promise to create a win-win."
Two members of Commonwealth Parenting's Board of Directors will move to the museum's Board of Trustees. In addition, a Task Force comprised of Commonwealth Parenting and CMoR volunteers will be formed to advise the merger process during the first year. The Community Foundation provided a $25,000 grant to assist with expenses related to the merger. "I always applaud organizations that take a strategic and creative approach to delivering on their missions," said Stettinius. "As a result of this merger, we now have a resource for families in Central Virginia that is positioned to make a big difference throughout our community."
As part of the public celebration of the merger, Commonwealth Parenting will debut a new speaker's series entitled "Lunch and Learn" which will present leading experts in the field of child and parent education. Offered at lunchtime in order to serve the needs of busy families, the first in the series will feature renowned author Nancy Carlsson-Paige whose recent book entitled "Taking Back Childhood: A Proven Roadmap for Raising Confident, Creative, Compassion Kids" reveals practical, hands-on approaches parents can take to create a safe, open and imaginative environment in which kids can relish childhood and flourish as human beings. This groundbreaking book helps parents navigate the social currents shaping, and too often harming, the lives of kids today - and to restore childhood to the very best of what it can and should be.
Nancy Carlsson-Paige is currently Professor Emerita at Lesley University where she has taught educators for more than 30 years and was a founder of the University's Center for Peaceable Schools. Carlsson- Paige, mother of actor Matt Damon, has written and spoken extensively about the impact of media on children's lives and social development. She is a critic of current education reforms that promote standardized tests and the privatization of schools. Carlsson-Paige is also the author of numerous books, articles and op eds on media and technology, conflict resolution, peaceable classrooms, and education reform. Carlsson-Paige has received many awards for her leadership and advocacy in early childhood and peace education. She is an advocate for education policies and practices that promote social justice and the well being of all children.
Lunch and Learn featuring Nancy Carlsson-Paige will take place on Friday, October 18 at the Children's Museum of Richmond's Central location, located at 2626 W. Broad Street. Registration begins at 11:30 followed by a brief book signing and the feature presentation at 12:30. Tickets are $10 per person and are available at www.ChildrensMuseumofRichmond.org or by calling Commonwealth Parenting at 804-545-1272. Food trucks will be on site offering various lunch items for sale or guests may bring their own food. For more information on this event, please visit www.ChildrensMuseumofRichmond.org or www.CommonwealthParenting.org.