Betsy Overton displays the many artworks created by local children in the third annual Cherish the Little Things art show. Overton is the coordinator for Connections 4 Kids, which provides resources and services to young children in Moffat and Rio Blanco counties.

Photo by Andy Bockelman

Betsy Overton displays the many artworks created by local children in the third annual Cherish the Little Things art show. Overton is the coordinator for Connections 4 Kids, which provides resources and services to young children in Moffat and Rio Blanco counties.

Connections 4 Kids nurtures Northwest Colorado’s youngest residents

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— For more information on Connections 4 Kids, 601 Yampa Ave., call 970-824-1081 or visit facebook.com/connections4kids.

There may be some new elements to Northwest Colorado’s Connections 4 Kids, but even with differences in leadership and location, it’s still holding true to the same mission.

Connections 4 Kids serves as the Early Childhood Council for Moffat and Rio Blanco Counties, its objective to provide the children of the area — from infants to age 8 — with resources and services.

“We want to provide young parents and their kids with good starts,” said Coordinator Betsy Overton.

Among the projects the organization takes on are parenting classes and giving assistance to preschool teachers and daycare providers in the area with their programs.

Also, Connections 4 Kids focuses on literacy and health concerns by offering Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, which gives reading materials to kids under the age of 5, and previously, Cavity-Free at Three, a dental hygiene incentive aimed at keeping area toddlers in good oral health.

Though the three-year grant for Cavity-Free at Three ended with the close of 2013, Connections also works to provide a network of dental resources for families.

Another change with the end of the previous year was the departure of former coordinator Michelle Balleck. Overton began in the position in January, having worked in a volunteer capacity before that.

“I like being part of a nonprofit just because you feel like you’re doing good for the community and working to improve programs and resources in your community,” Overton said.

With numerous volunteers pitching in, collaboration is a must to provide the best environment for children, she said.

“We work together with a lot of other community entities so that we’re not duplicating services,” she said. “We may be working toward one project, but everybody’s in a different aspect. You get more accomplished working as a group than you do separately.”

Much of Overton’s work so far has been centered on the recent Cherish the Little Things art show, showcasing the artworks of area children of all ages while simultaneously raising funds for Connections 4 Kids.

The 2014 Cherish the Little Things show raised more than $10,000, a record for the organization.

Connections 4 Kids has been part of the region since about 2008, originally as the Northwest Colorado Council For Children and Families.

Council Chair Arin Daigneau said the Early Childhood Colorado Framework provides a rubric for Connections 4 Kids to focus on the key areas of health; social, emotional and mental health; early learning; and family support and parent education.

“We really try to focus on every aspect of a child’s upbringing,” she said. “Everything that happens in a child’s life in those early years carries on through those older years into their adulthood.”

On a personal level, those involved with Connections 4 Kids are committed to building a solid foundation for the younger generations. Council member Corrie Ponikvar has been part of the effort for several years.

“I think it’s a wonderful organization, and the work they do is very important for making sure strong early childhood programs are in place,” Ponikvar said.

Likewise, Overton enjoys seeing the results from the group’s endeavors.

“I love helping kids any way I can because they’re our future,” Overton said.

Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or abockelman@CraigDailyPress.com.

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