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Fundraiser to help autism center start child care center

Free Press - 5/4/2021

May 4—MANKATO — The founder of a nonprofit autism center has another ambition: a child care center serving children with special needs.

The Christopher Center provides screening, preschool and parent-child classes, speech therapy and other supports for children on the autism spectrum and their families.

Tanya Herbst, a longtime early childhood educator and autism specialist, opened a center last summer in Madison East Center named after her late brother.

The Christopher Center's mission is "filling the gap" of needed services. School districts and other agencies provide many services but cannot fill every need, Herbst said.

The pandemic has limited the number of families The Christopher Center has so far been able to serve.

But Herbst has been meeting one on one with families and holding small classes that help parents and grandparents better understand their children and grandchildren. She recently launched a summer preschool class for children on the autism spectrum, most of whom are a few months too young to join other preschool programs.

Now Herbst is beginning to work to start a nonprofit child care center. The Elysian resident envisions a center open to all children but has staff specially trained to support children with special needs and has speech and occupational therapy and other services available.

Herbst is scouting potential locations and looking for funding. She already has some experience with the many regulatory hurdles of starting a child care center. She once helped her church start a day care.

She is hoping a first fundraiser event will get her child care center closer to financial feasibility.

Ballman Roofing and Coating is planning and sponsoring the May 21 fundraiser, which includes a golf tournament as well as a dinner, silent auction and live music that is open to golfers and non-golfers.

The Lowell and Nadine Andreas Foundation has pledged to match up to $15,000 in proceeds from the fundraiser and any other near-term donations.


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