photos by SAIL OFF PHOTOGRAPHY
Nurturing the children of Forsyth County for almost 54 years, the dedicated team at Imprints Cares knows unlocking the potential in every child for lifelong success is a group effort – focused on both children and their families!
Much respected for its local commitment, the education non-profit served more than 7,400 children in Forsyth County last year, taking a holistic, multi-generational approach to advancing literacy and other opportunities.
“We have created an evidence-based model, grounded in research, that reduces poverty through positive parenting, addressing social issues and enhancing opportunities for all children and their families,” explains Director of Development and Marketing Kelsey Camarena.
In the late 1960s, a group of congregants from several local churches saw a need to help children from low-income families as they prepared to enter school. Founding the Association to Benefit Children’s Development (ABCD), their goal was to empower parents with the skills needed to raise children who are ready for the challenge of school. One of the group’s early directors, Helen Clinard, and her husband, Woody, sought ways to level the playing field for at-risk children, and her contributions are still recognized today.
“I think the Clinards’ legacy is visible today by our sheer growth in size and impact,” says Kelsey. “We serve thousands of children every day and honor the founders with our commitment to nurture children. Our organization’s sustainability is key to that goal, and our name and reputation in the community are recognized with trust – people know we will show up to meet families where they are and walk alongside them to support their success journey.”
As a leader in educational and health equity in the Winston-Salem community, Imprints Cares is committed to addressing structural barriers which prevent children from reaching their full potential. By embracing cultural diversity and creating safe and inclusive environments, children have the chance to learn, grow and thrive.
The staff at Imprints Cares – 40 full-time employees – bring their exceptional talents and gifts every single day to serve children, parents, guardians and care providers. Executive Director Claudia Barrett ensures that staffing is intentional, creating a team that’s representative of the overall community.
“We lead by example,” Claudia explains. “Our staff is certified in a number of evidence-based programs, and our organization is also actively engaged in research and the publication of studies that support our model fidelity.”
“As its name suggests, our Ready for School programming, (Parents as Teachers, Family, Friends and Neighbors, Book Babies and Pediatric Parenting Connections) serve children and their families from before birth through age five, and operates 365 days a year. Some programs start with families during the prenatal phase to help prepare parents, while others focus on providing parents with tools and resources to make sure children are meeting developmental milestones. All programs focus on positive parenting and supporting parents as their child’s first and best teacher,” Kelsey explains. “PAT is our cornerstone initiative, serving high-risk families through home visiting and positive parenting. Our Expanded Learning programs – Before and After-School Care, Summer Enrichment Camp and Imprints Cares Inclusion program – serve students from pre-K through middle school during the school year. We also offer a nine-week Summer Enrichment program from June through August. On the health side, family educators work as part of a healthcare “team” to ensure developmental and behavioral concerns are assessed and that referrals are made as needed.”
The Pediatric Parenting Connections program is also expanding into pediatric offices throughout the Novant Health and Atrium Health footprint, both in this community and beyond. The PPC program will be opening in three pediatric clinics in the Charlotte Market next year, with continuing plans to expand into other areas.
The pandemic proved to be a crucial time for Imprints Cares and ultimately helped spread the word about their services. They were one of the only non-profits in this community that never shut down. On Friday, March 13, 2020, the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School System closed its doors, but the following Monday, Imprints Cares was providing childcare for essential personnel, and was running 11 remote learning sites for students across the county. Throughout the pandemic, collaborations with faith-based organizations was critical to providing those remote learning sites, and that ongoing support to the community has afforded the group new growth opportunities.
After being housed in the Augsburg Community Center for 52 years, Imprints Cares learned in August of 2022 that they had to find a new home. Thanks to the generosity of the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation, a building located at 2920 Reynolda Road was gifted to the non-profit.
“We were elated and gratefully accepted their gift,” says Kelsey. “But, this building was not large enough to house our entire staff. Through yet another blessing, Imprints Cares was awarded funding through Forsyth County ARPA, $717,000 of which was allocated towards the purchase of the current 21,000-square-foot building, located at 711 Coliseum Plaza Court. We were also awarded $500,000 through City of Winston-Salem ARPA for programmatic impact and growth.”
The Expanded Learning staff is currently housed at the Coliseum Plaza Court location, and the Ready for School staff works from the Reynolda Road location. Imprints Cares is venturing into a capital campaign to raise funds to up-fit their newest home to create a center where families can truly thrive, with an estimated renovation completion by Fall of 2024. The center will be part of an education hub that’s revitalizing a specific part of our community on Coliseum, and The Salem Montessori School and Parenting Path will also be located in the area.
This non-profit model is unique in that it not only provides direct impact to children and their families, but the economic value is substantial, as well. The Expanded Learning Before and After-School program serves more than 2,100 students every day and 500 employers, and more than 1,200 employees benefit from knowing their child is in a safe, nurturing environment while they work.
Imprints Cares also employs more than 300 part-time staff for their Before and After-School Care program, more than 70% of whom are teachers, teaching assistants and employees of the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School system.
As Imprints Cares continues to grow, the diversification of revenue is critical to maintaining their sustainability. Kelsey adds they are excited to be in conversation with Brookridge Retirement Community to create an intergenerational child care facility located on their main Winston-Salem campus. Open to the community, this partnership will address the critical need for childcare, serving children from infancy through middle school. Not only will it provide high-quality childcare, but it will also boost the economic mobility of working parents, and provide residents of the retirement community the chance to engage with Winston-Salem’s youngest citizens!
The group partners with many community organizations and leaders to further their reach, including the WS/FCS, Boston Thurmond United, Crossnore, Atrium Health/Wake Forest Baptist Health, Novant Health, Forsyth Futures, Childcare Resource Center, Latino Community Services, Senior Services, United Way of Forsyth County Housing Matters initiative, Smart Start and the Pre-K Priority.
As is always true, we are better together! Imprints Cares is on the trajectory to become a national model of success, and this dedicated team looks forward to seeing what the next 50 years will hold.
Imprints Cares is located at 711 Coliseum Plaza Court in Winston-Salem. Reach them at 336.722.6296, online at imprintscares.org or follow them on Instagram @imprintscares. Community members can become involved through volunteering with the before and after-school care programming and through other events held throughout the year. Click the “donate” button on the website for information on monetary and in-kind donations.