PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) – When Hurricane Michael devastated the panhandle in 2018, most buildings in its path were damaged or destroyed. Childcare facilities and classrooms were not spared.

Like many places, The Early Learning Coalition of Northwest Florida knows what it was like to rebuild after Hurricane Michael.

So, in 2019, when the nonprofit received a $7.4 million federal childcare development grant, they created “Operation Kaleidoscope”. 

“When we applied for the funds, we decided that we wanted to use those that several million dollars for a broad range of services to help child care centers you know, get back get back up and running,” said The Early Learning Coalition of Northwest Florida Administrative Director Matt Bonner.

They spread the money out to more than three dozen damaged daycare centers and hundreds of classrooms across the coalition’s seven-county service area.

$1.3 million buys books, furniture, and other learning tools in 339 different classrooms.

“We were able to use that to replace all of those materials again as well as reimburse providers for either they didn’t have insurance or what insurance wouldn’t cover we were able to reimburse them for their repairs and renovations,” Bonner said.

The rebuilding process from Hurricane Michael was a high-stress time for people of all ages.

The Early Learning Coalition of Northwest Florida spent $2.8 million rebuilding playgrounds at 42 different childcare centers.

Nearly every childcare center that got damaged or was forced to close is back up and running.
Now, that Operation Kaleidoscope is coming to a close, the coalition is planning a new venture called Help-Me-Grow.


“It’s a little bit of everything. It starts with a child screening. So, we have specialists that can go and walk it, walk through with a family. What we use is called the ages and stages questionnaire tool and we just gauge the development of the children,” Bonner said.

The program will measure a child’s development process to make sure they get the help they need as early as possible.

Any childcare facility in need of assistance can contact the coalition.
The hotline number is (850) 747-5400