Backpacks for the Homeless

For the past five years, the CEC has participated in alumni parent Ann Martin's annual drive to provide holiday backpacks for the homeless in Pasadena. We would like to once again extend her invitation out to the CEC community to participate in this meaningful project. Please see below to read Ann's letter and view a full list of the items she is hoping to collect.

We will have boxes in the Oak Grove and Co-op offices, as well as in the Dolphin room for families to drop off donations. Thank you for paying it forward this holiday season!

Her message:

Thank you so much to all of you who continue to participate and a warm welcome to those of you who are new to this endeavor. Every year, I am so touched by the amazing generosity of my friends, colleagues, and family!  We all have so much to be thankful for and I appreciate you all paying it forward by contributing something to those who survive on so little.

Thanks for your overwhelming generosity, last year we were able to distribute 40 backpacks and sleeping bags filled with necessities for homeless women and men in our community.  When we ran out, we had extra gift cards that we were able to hand out so nobody we encountered was left empty-handed.

Apparently, we are developing somewhat of a reputation in the homeless community. Last year, when we stopped on the side of the road to offer a backpack to a homeless man, his face lit up and he exclaimed, “Oh, you are those backpack people I’ve heard about!  I’m so glad you found me this year.”

Your contributions really make a difference. Sadly, the problem of homelessness continues to grow.  With rents soaring, we are seeing many more seniors and families being displaced.  My heart broke when I encountered an elderly man walking through a gas station with a shopping cart holding his remaining possessions.  His mop and broom poignantly protruded from the neatly packed piles of clothes, kitchenware, and other belongings.  When I asked if he was okay, he told me he could no longer afford his rent. He was so grateful for the sleeping bag and the gift cards I was able to offer him. I wanted to take him home with me.

This year, I have purchased 48 backpacks to fill with things that the homeless can use to make their lives a little better.  In an attempt to try to make this more convenient for you during this busy time of year I have put together a Wish List on Amazon of items we need. 

You can just go to the link and pick out what you want to donate and order it online at:

If you enjoy getting out to the stores and shopping (99 cent store and Target are great options). 

Please bring your donation to the designated CEC drop off locations and they will be delivered to me by December 21. I plan to distribute the backpacks during the week of Christmas. Suggested items are listed below.  Small denomination food gift cards to McDonald's are not available on Amazon, but are much appreciated, as are donated items of clothing!

I want you all to know how thankful I am to have such wonderful people like you in my life.

Thank you for your consideration and, of course, no pressure to participate!

Love, Ann

With additional appreciation from Elyssa!

Needed Items 

  • Sweatshirts
  • T-shirts
  • Face towels
  • Underwear
  • Knit caps
  • Baseball caps
  • Socks
  • Paperback Books
  • Playing cards
  • Blankets (no aluminum blankets because they need to not stand out when sleeping)
  • Chapstick
  • Antibacterial ointment
  • Pre-paid phones
  • Energy bars
  • Nail clippers
  • Soap
  • Shampoo
  • Razors
  • Shaving cream
  • Combs
  • Brushes
  • Deodorant
  • Lotion
  • Gift certificates to Subway or McDonalds
  • Bus tokens
  • Toothbrushes (soft bristles)
  • Toothpaste

A Message from the CEC's Program Director 11-28-17

Loose parts and open-ended materials at the CEC.

Loose parts and open-ended materials at the CEC.

Last week, Ellen Veselack and I  presented at NAEYC’s national annual conference. Our presentation focused on assisting programs in developing and implementing inquiry-based approaches to support children’s growth and learning by stimulating children’s natural curiosity through the use of everyday materials. While this approach might sound common, many programs rely on purchasing expensive items, which often limit not only variety and quantity but also novelty and creativity. The specialized materials that programs purchase may seem necessary, but children don't need “scripted” materials to help them have fun and extend their knowledge of the world.

At the CEC, we inspire and support children’s curiosity and learning through the use of what can be termed “loose parts”. Essentially, loose parts are items that are intended to be manipulated and transformed by children and teachers in an unlimited number of ways. The most important aspect of a loose part is that it can become almost anything: a plain sock can become a puppet, seed pods can become pretend food, sticks and branches can become the foundations for structures, milk crates can become containers to transport things or link together to make a vehicle or train. Loose parts allow for children to apply their imagination and transform objects to further their learning and play. We find that simple and open-ended materials are not only the most favored ones but also the most beneficial when it comes to supporting imagination, curiosity, and learning.

For ideas of loose parts that you may have in your own home, or are easily acquired, please see the beautiful graphics below, produced by Community Playthings, an organization that not only produces equipment for centers and schools but also advocates for inquiry-based and outdoor learning.

Lisa Cain-Chang

A Message from the CEC's Program Director 10-24-17

At the CEC, we believe that inquiry-based learning, play, and the development of meaningful relationships with friends and teachers are important experiences of childhood that should be nurtured with care. In 1997, it was this belief, and the 18 years of success with our Infant-Toddler and Preschool Programs, that first drove us to bring our philosophy to the La Canada Unified School District (LCUSD) by offering exceptional before- and after-school programming on-site at La Canada elementary schools.

This past Friday, the CEC’s School-Age program celebrated 20 years of serving holistic and nurturing programming to families through our partnership with LCUSD. We held celebration parties with cake, games, activities, and raffle prizes at our three sites: Palm Crest, Paradise Canyon, and La Canada Elementary schools.

Check out our photos from the celebration at La Canada Elementary School:

CEC/LCUSD 20th Anniversary Celebration at La Canada Elementary School

You can learn more about continuing your child’s journey with the CEC in elementary school by visiting our School-Age Program Page.

Lisa Cain-Chang

Creating A Healing Space

This summer, Mollie Parker and Karena Senske, alumni of the Child Educational Center’s Infant-Toddler, Preschool, and School-Age Programs, got to go back to preschool. Along with friends Riley Lowes and Jacqueline Yipp, they completed their Girl Scout Silver Award project by planting and landscaping a “healing garden” in the CEC’s Oak Grove preschool yard.

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