The mission of Early Education and Care, Inc. (EEC) is to support and provide quality care and education for children, families and child care providers.
Type of Business & Length of Service
EEC is a private, not-for-profit corporation providing vital social services to the community. We are a 501(c)(3) charitable organization and a United Way agency. EEC has provided services to the community since 1972.
The Head Start and Early Head Start programs are offered in Bay County while only the Early Head Start program is offered in Franklin County. EEC also offers the Florida Department of Children and Families State mandated child care training courses in 14 counties in the Northwest Florida area.
Early Education and Care, Inc. believes in the optimum development and educational success for all children. This is why, back in 1972, the Bay County Day Care Center, Inc. opened to provide quality child care services to disadvantaged preschoolers, originally serving 20 children. In 1976, the organization became an official agency of the United Way, allowing steadier funding for expansion and program support.
A new role was set for the organization when it was asked to serve as a central agency by the District Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services to administer child care subsidy dollars. This role not only charged us to sub-contract with area child care centers for placing low-income children, but also expanded services to six surrounding counties located in the sub-district. This change spurred a change in philosophy, direction and name: Bay County Community-Coordinated Child Care Council, Inc. (1979).
In 1983, the agency received a federal grant to serve 60 children during the school year through the Head Start program and more children a year later through directly operated and sub-contracted centers. The Panama City Housing Authority, who provides low-income housing to the residents of Panama City, renovated its facilities in 1985, including the addition of a child care facility. We were asked to operate the child care program, Massalina Child Care Center, housing our Head Start center, in the public housing units on 15th Street.
Child abuse was headlined in 1985 citing incidents in child care centers, one particularly because of an undetected criminal record of a child care worker. The intense media attention brought action to the State Legislature who passed legislation requiring criminal background screenings, Child Abuse Registry clearances, fingerprinting and 20 hours of training for child care center staff. As a result, the agency became the training coordinating agency for the coordination and provision of training for child care workers in our area in 1986. Our current role is to coordinate training in 14 counties in District 2 working with all educational institutions in its provision.
A children’s festival had often been considered as a needed area event. In keeping with the agency’s mission, the staff began making plans to implement the first-ever Kidfest in January 1994. On April 23, 1994, the first Kidfest was held on the campus of Gulf Coast Community College. Because of the heightened success of the event, it was continued and is still held each spring.
In 1999, Jeanette Chapman conceptualized the idea of having initial contact with every new mother giving birth to her child, providing her with information on appropriate stimulation and vital learning connections in a child’s brain. The Touch, Love, Communicate program, funded by the Chapman Family Foundation, was launched as a partnership between the Bay County hospitals.
The state-of-the-art Chapman Early Education Center was opened the next year in 2000. The center housed eight Head Start and six Early Head Start classrooms to serve over 200 children. It was named after the Chapman family who donated the property for the building’s site.
Verma Hines, a Head Start Center Director, saw the need enhance parent involvement within the Head Start families. She envisioned a children’s choir that would have a regular practice schedule and perform for other groups and during events. In 2004, the Sandbox Singers, Head Start’s own choir made up of children three- to five-years-old, was created and sing at various events throughout the community.
In 2009, EEC received an Early Head Start Expansion Grant. The grant funds were used to serve 68 infants, toddlers and pregnant women in Bay and Franklin Counties. The Catherine’s House Center opened in October serving children enrolled in the Early Head Start and Early Intervention programs.
- 1972 Bay County Day Care Center, Inc. opens for 20 disadvantaged preschoolers at the Vetter Center on 7th Court.
- 1976 Became a United Way Affiliate.
- 1979 Became Bay County Community-Coordinated Child Care Council, Inc. and began offering subsidized child care.
- 1983 Became offering Head Start services to 60 children.
- 1985 Massalina Center opened on Frank Nelson.
- 1986 Became the Florida Department of Children and Families Child Care Training Coordinator.
- 1994 1st Kidfest Celebration.
- 1999 Touch, Love, Communicate (TLC) opened.
- 2000 Chapman Early Education Center opened.
- 2004 Sandbox Singers debuted under the direction of Verma Hines.
- 2009 EEC receives Early Head Start Expansion Grant.