The Encompass NW organization serving the Snoqualmie Valley is probably the most youthful 50-year-old you’ve ever seen. Its three locations (in North Bend and Carnation) are filled with children almost year round and with the energy needed to serve this growing population.
Encompass has celebrated and is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year with a community party in August, participation in local festivals all summer and, coming up Nov. 5, its annual fundraising gala.
“The official birth date is in November,” says Encompass Community Outreach Manager Marsha Quinn. “But we have been celebrating, because we’re in our 50th year.”
There’s a lot to celebrate. The organization got its start from truly humble beginnings in 1966, when a group of parents of special needs children decided to bring the services their kids needed to the Valley. Encompass is now a recognized leader, at both the state and federal levels, in early childhood education.
“In the beginning, it was completely grass roots,” said Quinn. “It was for those parents who didn’t want to drive to Issaquah or Bellevue or Seattle to get services.”
What started as the Sno-Valley School for Special Needs, Inc., a donation-funded program, evolved into Children Services of Sno-Valley. The program, providing learning assistance to special needs children, moved from the churches that had been hosting it to a house near Mount Si High School in the 80s, and expanded to offer a preschool for all children. All eight staff members worked in the garage while the Four Seasons Preschool met in the house.
The organization offered a range of services, which were frequently expanded but always within the “silos” of early childhood education and pediatric therapy. Early learning programs promoted the social, emotional, cognitive and physical development of children; pediatric therapy programs, including a Birth to 3 intervention program, supported optimal growth and development of infants and toddlers with developmental delays.
From the house, the program expanded again to accommodate the increasing need for early learning services. This move, in the ’90s, brought the organization to its primary location today, the Early Learning Center on Boalch Avenue in North Bend. The move was also something to celebrate, resulting from a $1 million capital campaign and with the help of Dick and Rosanna Zemp and the Weyerhaeuser Mill of Snoqualmie.
The new name, Encompass, was chosen in 2005 to reflect the varied services the organization had come to offer. Those services are still the heart and soul of Encompass today, which has expanded physically, to the opening of a stand-alone pediatric therapy clinic in 2011 in North Bend, and earlier this year, to the Riverview School District’s preschool program, offered as part of the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program. Its mission, while expanding in scope, has stayed consistent.
“We primarily focus on the 0 to 8 young child and the pediatric therapy programs,” Quinn said. “Our staff has grown substantially, the number of programs we have has grown substantially.”
In the past year, Encompass has served at least 1,700 children with one or more of its 26 programs. About 10 years ago, the entire Encompass staff numbered 25. These days, there are 25 people working in the organization’s pediatric therapy clinic alone, and nearly 80 on staff throughout the organization, most of them full time.
Quinn has been with the organization for 12 years and she, like former Encompass executive director Nancy Whitaker, started out as a parent.
“I started as a volunteer, and both of my boys started in early intervention,” she said.
Whitaker, the organization’s executive director from 2002 to 2008 and volunteer for more than 20 years, will be the featured speaker at the upcoming gala, highlighting her history with the organization.
“Nancy Whitaker is one of the first people to receive services,” Quinn said. “She started out as a parent and she grew to be our executive director.”
The Encompass gala will be held from 5 to 10 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 5 at the Bellevue Hyatt Regency. Along with Whitaker, the evening will feature a commemorative video of the organization’s history. Organizers are hoping for attendance of 400 people and have set a fundraising goal of $400,000.
For more information about Encompass, visit www.encompassnw.org.