Making child care affordable for working parents
Sharon Wellikson was a working mother of three young children when she moved to Irvine in the late 1970s. Today, she’s 73, with seven grandkids and more than 20 years’ experience as executive director of the Irvine Children’s Fund, which raises money for child care scholarships for low-income, working families.
A plaque on Irvine City Hall’s “Wall of Recognition” hails Wellikson as a distinguished citizen, both for her fundraising for child care and her many other meaningful contributions to Irvine nonprofits.
“She’s a fixer and a helper who works with the city, school district and donors to make sure we get what we need,” says Lauren Sue Brooks, president of the Irvine Unified School District Board of Education. “She’s the link that makes all of this work.”
We recently spoke with Wellikson about the Irvine Children’s Fund:
What kind of child care is provided at Irvine public schools?
IUSD is the only district in California I know of that offers licensed, on-site child care at every elementary school. Care is available from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. for kids in transitional kindergarten through sixth grade, so parents can get to work on time and don’t have to leave work early or in the middle of the day. Child care has always been part of the mission of the city.
What does the Irvine Children’s Fund do?
Through support from the community, businesses and schools, we were able to provide partial or full scholarships for 10,000 child care days last year. That helped about 150 working families in Irvine. We’ve also received a $980,000 federal grant, so I’m happy to say we’re now able to help everyone in the community who needs a child care scholarship.
“She’s a fixer and a helper who works with the city, school district and donors to make sure we get what we need. She’s the link that makes all of this work.”– Lauren Sue Brooks, Irvine Unified School District Board of Education
How did you first get involved?
When I first came to Irvine, I was working as a physical therapist, and my husband was a physician. With three young children, I was making three drop-offs every morning. I had friends who were on the ICF board, and I liked their mission. I knew how important it was to have reliable, accessible, affordable child care.
How can the community get involved?
We have a wonderful fundraiser for the Irvine Children’s Fund every year in May, with the Irvine Junior Games. More than 1,200 fourth through eighth graders compete in track-and-field contests, and the whole community comes out. The 34th annual games will be held May 7 at Irvine Stadium, with track-and-field competitions, including individual races, relays, long jumps and basketball shoots.
Visit irvinechildrensfund.org to learn more, volunteer or become a sponsor.