Wise, collaborative, diverse, compassionate, nurturing and eager.

These are a few of the words that board members and staff with the Early Learning Partnership of York County brainstormed to describe the organization and its mission as they gathered for its 2021 retreat at Bethelwoods.

During the retreat, led by author, poet, motivational speaker and South Pointe High School teacher Carlo L’Chelle Dawson, the group met at an outdoor venue to learn more about each other and to talk about what they contribute to ELP.

ELP promotes critical early childhood development, including reading and bonding between families and preschool children. With its Reach Out and Read program, through which it partners with 10 York County pediatric clinics, children from birth to 5 years receive books from pediatricians at their well child visits, and medical providers talk about the benefits.

Through ELP’s collaboration with the national ROR office and its ROR-Carolinas affiliate, ELP provides training and children’s books that are diverse and age and language appropriate. ELP also supports the medical team, which promotes bonding, early brain development, and a love of learning in young children and families.

Dawson, a storyteller and author of three children’s books and two poetry books, including her children’s book, “Why We Celebrate: The Rich Legacy of Juneteeth,” led retreat participants in several team-building exercises.

The group members learned more about each other in an exercise in which they shared the origins of their own first and last names and talked about how those names have affected their walk through life. 

They also wrote poems in which they compared ELP and its mission to an animal, object or insect. The members described ELP as loyal as a lab, eager as a puppy, wise as an owl and sharing heavy burdens like a horse.

The members also were asked to think about what they contribute to the organization and its future and to write story titles that sum it up.

“Open doors, open books, open minds,” one member wrote.

Another wrote: “Every child is a new beginning, and I want to be a part of that future.”

Other members wrote titles that focused on building connections, impacting lives, giving opportunities, empowering children, creating change, increasing awareness and helping others through literacy and bonding.

“I think this is very powerful, and I love that it is coming from each of you, “ said executive director Teresa Creech, who thanked board members for their commitment and their ability to adapt to changes.

“We’ve always been flexible,” Creech told the group, referring to ELP’s history of adapting to different circumstances. “And we’ve been good stewards of the money that has been given to us by the community.”