For over 13 years Tandem, Partners in Early Learning has served young children and families in low-income communities throughout the Bay Area. Formerly known as Raising A Reader, San Francisco, Alameda & Contra Costa Counties, Tandem has been working to engage parents, teachers, and caregivers in community capacity building and workshops – all with the goal of supporting early childhood (birth to age eight) development for children in both formal and informal educational settings.
StoryCycles™, Tandem’s signature book-sharing program, provides families with access to high quality children’s books. Multilingual, age and culturally-appropriate books are sent home with children from Tandem’s partner sites, including schools and childcare centers, and are swapped out weekly. Information is provided to parents, caregivers, and educators, encouraging them to read more interactively to foster early literacy skills. Programming is aimed to cultivate children’s healthy brain development, positive relationships, a love of reading, and the literacy skills critical for success in school.
Based out of an 1800 sq ft office in San Francisco’s South of Market neighborhood for over ten years, the organization found itself unable to keep up with rising rents.
“We were in negotiations with our landlord and we realized that it just wasn’t going to work for us to stay. We saw this as an opportunity,” said Molly Wertz, Tandem’s Executive Director. “We’d outgrown our space, too. We couldn’t even fit all of our staff in our conference room. We really believed these challenges would last forever.”
Wertz applied to the San Francisco Nonprofit Displacement Mitigation (NPDM) program, a program Community Vision is leading on behalf of the City of San Francisco that stabilizes nonprofits at risk of displacement. Tandem applied and received technical assistance and a $50,000 grant award from the program
“It was fantastic to be exposed to resources that would help us think about what kind of space we would need for the future. It was an opportunity for us to have conversations about our facilities that were as complex as some of the program-related conversations we were having,” said Wertz.
Through participation in the NPDM program, Wertz attended trainings on lease negotiations, had weekly consulting calls, and visited commercial properties with Community Vision’s trained real estate professionals.
“One of the best things about this was being able to connect with Community Vision’s consultants and even other program participants. We learned so much about best practices around how to use space. We didn’t feel like we were tackling San Francisco’s rental market alone,” said Wertz.
In December 2015 Tandem signed a lease to a 6,000 sq ft space located in the City’s Bayview-Hunter’s Point neighborhood. The facility offers the organization over 3x more space, is closer to the population Tandem serves, and provides space for the organization to build a community room, which will provide a space for local families to participate in workshops and trainings. With few meeting spaces in the neighborhood, this community room will provide meaningful access for families and community members.
“We’ve never been able to deliver programs out of our office. This is huge for us.” said Wertz. “We’re an organization long embedded in San Francisco, and we want to reach more people in the local community. Now we have the opportunity to do so.”