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The recent announcement by the Cannon Beach Conference Center to close its Charis Kids preschool and after-school program in June has a number of people in Cannon Beach upset over the loss in services.

The program called Charis Kids has been operating for about 30 years and many people in Cannon Beach depend on it, people say.

Amy Fredrickson, director of the Cannon Beach Academy, told The Gazette last week she recently shared the following with her board of directors: “Many of our students attended Charis Kids after school program and always shouted for joy when the van came to our school to pick them up.  From Messy Mondays to Bounce House Fridays, the kids love each and every activity provided.  Clatsop County is considered a child care desert and families who have no family or friend child care options would no longer have an option at all in our town.

“One of the most valuable pieces of Charis for our school and students is the pick-up service,” Fredrickson said.  “Our students get out of school at 3 p.m. and many families aren’t able to come to the school at that time.  CBA does not have transportation for students, so we aren’t able to bus kids to Charis like Seaside School District.  Because Charis comes directly to our school, our students are able to come to the afterschool program.  Without this valuable preschool and afterschool program with pick-up service, I fear we would lose families without other local options.

“It would be a detriment to our school and our community to see Charis Kids close for good.  Without Charis Kids, many young people in our community will miss out on the opportunity to grow in a spiritual manner.  The program is a vital part of our community. The community suffered a great loss when the Children’s Center closed and I can’t imagine how this could affect our town. I cannot imagine Cannon Beach without Charis Kids.”

Marc Hagman, executive director of the Cannon Beach Conference Center, told The Gazette on Saturday: “The decision to close Charis Kids was done after months of evaluation. The conversations involved our main leadership team and included those directly managing the program.

 The difficulties we faced in light of the pandemic were the initial driving force for us to examine various departments and practices throughout the conference center. Like many businesses, we were not immune to the challenges brought on by COVID-19. There were many aspects of our evaluation: financial/resources, mission, personnel, etc.

 With the most care possible, we focused on the health and vitality of the conference center’s primary mission to guests who come to Cannon Beach for retreats and conferences.

 We are grateful for the years we have been able to serve the children and families who have come to Charis Kids.”

 Ashley Nelson, has two children in the Charis Kids after school program, who also attended its pre-school. Nelson has been circulating an online petition to gather signatures by people who support keeping the program open.

Nelson told The Gazette on Friday that she has more than 400 signatures on the petition in support of Charis Kids remaining open.

She said, “Charis is a program that is rooted deep in our community and is the only preschool/after school program available in Cannon Beach. Many families rely on this service to be able to work in our small town.

 “In my meeting with Marc Hagman on Tuesday, I shared with him over a dozen letters from the community pleading with him to reconsider and presented the petition that we have with over 400 signatures on it! He plans to use the space to focus on retreats that the CBCC offers. I explained my disappointment in this since Charis kids is the only part of the CBCC ministry that directly supports our town, the retreats are designed for tourist groups through different organizations that come to the conference center for events. If we take the Charis program away we are removing the bridge that connects the CBCC to our local town.

“Marc says this decision isn’t based on a financial issue, but rather the feeling that the Lord is taking the CBCC in a different direction. I informed him during our meeting that he will read in these letters that multiple community members and local businesses that rely on this program for staff needs are willing to financially support this program and I asked is there any amount of money we could raise to keep this program open and he said ‘not at this time.’

 “The whole thing just doesn’t make since to me, it doesn’t add up. When you have a thriving program that the community depends on and is willing to donate funds to keep running why wouldn’t any business accept that help and try their hardest to support the need of the community? Yes, numbers are lower right now, but we’re in the middle of a pandemic! As our families go back to work in this hard season they are now going to have to search for new childcare which adds an even heavier burden to our young families trying to stay afloat in our small town.”

Steve Hanamura, chairman of the board of the CBCC, said: “What I can say is the board will do our due diligence to explore the dynamics of this situation. Presently I am in the process of collecting information from different parties.”

Nelson said the CBCC board is meeting in May and she hopes they will read the community letters, look at the petition and vote to keep the program open.

To view the petition, look at the following link https://www.change.org/p/marc-hagman-keep-charis-kids-open?source_location=petitions_browse.

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