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Day care keeps families close

Tue., May 1, 2007, midnight

Each weekday morning as Chris DeForest heads out the door to work, his 4-year-old son, John, goes with him.

When they arrive at the Community Building in downtown Spokane, they go their separate ways – Chris to his job as executive director of the Inland Northwest Land Trust, and John to on-site childcare.

The Land Trust is one of several organizations housed in the downtown Community Building, the mission of which is to bring together nonprofit groups to form a nexus of inter-related community support services – one of which is childcare.

“The vision was to have a beautiful place for nonprofits for justice and the environment to work,” DeForest says. “And a place so that those who toil in the nonprofit vineyards can also have their kids in the same building going to school.”

DeForest says the on-site child care affords the opportunity to take lunch breaks with his son.

“We get together two or three times a week,” he says.

Located on Main Avenue in downtown’s east end, the Community Building is home to several social justice and environmental groups. The building’s mission will soon expand next door to the old Saranac Hotel, where Community Building owner Jim Sheehan is planning an art house movie theater and more office space.

Community Building coordinator Dave Sanders says the idea in bringing together so many nonprofit groups is to capitalize on their individual strengths through open communication.

“We’re trying to create some synergies with the 22 nonprofits that are in the building,” he says. “We’ve brought them together in a building that is open in the center. It’s like a front porch or neighborhood feel, and people seem to be networking.”

But the building is also an asset to those who live and work in Spokane’s urban core, offering a spring farmers market with greens and early produce, and fresh bread from Arabesque Bakery on Thursdays throughout the winter. A meditation room is available to the public, and the building’s lobby is often used for public forums, art exhibits and other events. In addition, businesses can reserve the conference room for meetings, Sanders says.

And of course, there’s the day care. Although the facility gives enrollment preference to children whose parents work for a nonprofit onsite, DeForest says the center is open to all.

“It’s a very supportive and fun setting, and lots of other parents have lunch with their kids, too,” says DeForest, a self-described Geppetto who fixes the daycare-center’s toys in his spare time.

“It’s fun. Its something I can do – I work for a nonprofit, so I can offer my time,” he quips.

DeForest says both the building and downtown neighborhood in which it is located are great places to work.

“I walk into bank buildings downtown and it’s all steel and glass and security cameras everywhere and you feel underdressed,” he says. “Here you walk in and it’s old wood and walls the color of soup, and you smile and relax and say ‘I’m going to do good work today.’ “

“And I get to go to work with my son.”

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