One company,  one child care center, one man: one example of the power of compassion and volunteerism.
Open the door into Kingston Children’s Center, and it’s like taking a step back in time.  The building is rife with history, built in 1880 and undergoing a series of identities since then, from school to church and back to a school again. Large rooms, wood everywhere, a permeating homey atmosphere.  Who would think that a cutting-edge silicon heart beats beneath the bucolic exterior?

The center, based in Kingston, NH, may be enjoying a fully-networked infrastructure these days, but it wasn’t always like this.  The day-to-day demands of running a child care facility without huge amounts of cash flow often forced Executive Director Stacey Barnett to simply make do without the conveniences of technology; when the computers would drag and the network would go offline, well, there wasn’t money in the budget to bring in a brigade of IT wonks .

“We just had so many other things taking up our attention,” she said.  “At the same time, I know how frustrating it was for our staff.”

On September 11, 2012, it all changed.  Staff members from Hampton-based Unitil came to Kingston Children’s Center for the annual Day of Caring, an event coordinated by United Way of the Greater Seacoast that gives businesses the opportunity to dispatch their employees to various non-profit agencies for a day of projects.

On that day, Unitil’s representatives fanned out around the exterior of the building, raking, mowing, weeding, clearing out sandboxes and fluffing wood chips.  A soft-spoken member of Unitil’s IT department named Mike offered to take a peek at the center’s computer set-up.

The network had been down and the computers were operating at a glacial pace.  Mike dove into the wiring and repaired the network, made the necessary connections and tuned up the computers. Then he noticed something else: the computers the children were using in their classrooms for educational programs were either severely outdated or not functioning.

“He told us we was going to come back and figure this out,” Stacey said.

He came back, twice, on his own time.  And he bore gifts.  He was able to secure three computers and three monitors from Unitil.  The machines had been decommissioned and all company data has been wiped from the hard drive, but each rig was verified to be in full working order.

“They work perfectly,” said Stacey.  “The children are thrilled.  This just shows what people who want to make a difference can do.”

This blending of businesses with the non-profit industry exemplifies United Way’s charge to bring together all sectors to impact the community.

“As a company we are deeply invested in both the work of United Way and its partners,” said Carol Valianti, Vice-President of Communications and Public Affairs for Unitil.  “Yet it’s even more satisfying to see individuals take the initiative to impact the lives of others.”

“We are in the unique position to assist companies in meeting their philanthropic goals,” said Cindy Boyd, Managing Director of United Way of the Greater Seacoast.  “Watching what came of Unitil’s relationship with Kingston Children’s Center has been so exciting.”

It’s winter now and the children of Kingston Children’s Center sojourn outdoors only briefly.  They have yet to fully enjoy the fruits of all the manual labor that happened on their playground in September.  But inside, a young boy is hard at work, clicking a mouse, tapping a keyboard and sorting virtual shapes in a virtual sandbox, all thanks to one man who brought a preschool and a utility company together–and made a beautiful new connection.

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