Northampton Parents Center is a free drop-in, co-operative community center for young children (birth to kindergarten) and their caregivers.
Since its creation in 1985, the mission of the Northampton Parents Center (NPC) has been to provide a safe and friendly space for young children and their caregivers to meet and play: a place for parents to find support, information, and friendship, and for children to play, learn, and grow. All are welcome.
NPC is a non-profit, parent cooperative, drop-in Family Center located in the center of Northampton, MA, where families with young children gather to play, read, talk, make friends, and share resources and information. We are open Monday through Thursday from 9:30 to 11:30 am, from mid September through late May. The NPC serves the Western Massachusetts region with families traveling from as far as the Hartford, Connecticut area, as well as Vermont and New Hampshire. Last year, 488 families representing 665 children, participated in activities at our center, many of them coming several times a week.
Participants reflect the diversity of our community and include families from all income levels and cultural/racial/ linguistic backgrounds – single parents, fathers, mothers, grandparents, caregivers, friends and neighbors, gay/lesbian/transgender families, racial/linguistic minorities, foster parents, adoptive parents, nannies, babysitters, au pairs, and aunts and uncles. Since Northampton is the commercial center for a largely rural area, NPC is a regional Family Center, attracting families from more than 50 surrounding towns.
The Northampton Parents Center was founded in 1985 by a group of local parents and grandparents who saw the need for a place to gather and support each other in their roles as parents/caregivers. They wanted a welcoming opportunity for their children to play, learn, and make friends outside of their own homes. As parents, they also wanted a place to escape the isolation often felt raising young children in rural areas, particularly in the winter months. As the economy has taken a downturn, our center has become an alternative to preschool for those families who cannot afford the high costs of area programs.
Our services are provided free of charge. Donations are happily accepted and encouraged. We rely on volunteers and donations for much of the center operation. Much of our budget consists of in-kind donations – time, energy, reduced rent, and materials. We actively seek funding from local foundations, government, and private donors. The Northampton Public Schools and the Collaborative for Educational Services, in recognition of the foundational early childhood and family engagement work we do, both contribute to the cost of our center’s operation.
In addition, we are supported by Smith College Work Study Students through the America Reads program. Through this government subsidized program we have college students helping with set-up, snack, arts & crafts projects, and clean up. The majority of their time is spent reading to the children.