West Seattle schools: Bella Mente crowdfunding for new location

March 14, 2014 at 11:24 am | In West Seattle news, West Seattle schools | 17 Comments

(Photos courtesy Lauren Adams)
We’ve been asked a few times about work under way at 6007 California SW, home to Dr. Mark Bingham‘s dentistry practice until he retired after a quarter-century. We’ve learned that it’s the new home of the Bella Mente Early Learning Center preschool/day-care center – leaving its longtime Triangle-area location after facing the loss of its lease. And there’s a twist: Bella Mente has a crowdfunding campaign in progress.

After six years at 40th and Edmunds – on two 3-year leases – Bella Mente’s owner Lauren Adams was offered a one-year extension, with time beyond that “possible” but no guarantee; property managers told her the property will be sold with another Huling Properties-owned site immediately east. She says the price (the 2-parcel site’s assessed value alone is $2.7 million) was out of her range, so she bought the California SW location. That 68-year-old building requires extensive renovation work, however – estimated at around $278,000 – that Adams says wasn’t factored into her SBA loan because of appraisal confusion (“as-is” vs. “after construction”). She says that with time running out on her lease, she didn’t want to drop the plan:

So, we took the leap and are working hard 24/7 to find creative ways to come up with construction costs. My family has been extremely supportive and we are selling both our car and our house to use those funds for our project. My husband and I are offering our families date nights every Friday night with all proceeds going to this fund. Our teachers are spreading the word as well. We know the hard work that this will take and we are prepared to do anything we can to make this building the new home for Bella Mente. We have plans for the typical fundraising ideas of bake sales, garage sales, art auctions, and 5K’s. And we are keeping open minds to any other ideas that our community might have to help us work to reach our goal.

Adams’s friend Jason, who first told us about the situation, says Adams has raised about half of it so far.” The preschool owner tells us, “We have a long way to go but are excited for the challenge and this opportunity to continue our vision for our current children and the future children in our community that we will be able to reach because of this new building.” Her crowdfunding page is here.

17 Comments

  1. Thank you so much for taking the time to share our story!

    Comment by Lauren Adams — 1:26 pm March 14, 2014 #

  2. We have two children at her school. The community and support offered at Bella Mente is nothing short of amazing. Thank you Lauren for making the leap of faith.

    Comment by Amy — 1:33 pm March 14, 2014 #

  3. This is a wonderful preschool! My oldest was extremely well prepared for elementary school. Not only do children learn the basics, but also explore with hands-on projects. I love how the teachers are flexible enough to change the curriculum based on a topic that sparks interest that day. Speaking of the teachers, best group of professionals teaching our future’s young minds. They are very caring and committed to their jobs!

    Comment by Bella Mente parent — 1:48 pm March 14, 2014 #

  4. curious, will the new space have more room?
    when I called a few years ago, was basically told, ‘wait list too long, we won’t add you, don’t call again’
    it would be cool if they can expand. from the comments, it sounds like a great place.

    I wonder if there are ‘gifts’ you get like other funding pages do. ie, you donate $ X,XXX, you can move to the top of the waiting list. ha ha

    Comment by sam-c — 3:02 pm March 14, 2014 #

  5. What a great article. I have the pleasure of been a teacher at Belle Mente, as well as the parent of 2 Belle Mente kids. My oldest is now in 1st grade and is thriving not only scholastically, but socially & emotionally because of the time he spent at BM. Lauren has created a community of teachers and families here that is wonderful for the children. And that’s what it’s all about. The mobilization by the parents and teachers for this new project just speaks to the strength of Belle Mente’s vision. I can’t wait to see it come to fruition!

    Comment by Violet — 3:49 pm March 14, 2014 #

  6. My soon to be 9 year old was one of the first preschool students the day they opened. He was definitely prepared for Kindergarten – socially and academically. I am so impressed with how Lauren has taken her passion of working with kids and continues to find creative ways to achieve her goals.

    Comment by Debbie — 4:06 pm March 14, 2014 #

  7. Our son goes to BM. Lauren and the teachers are like family to us. This place is amazing!

    Comment by Janet — 7:36 pm March 14, 2014 #

  8. Bella Mente has been a great resource for West Seattle families. Congrats Lauren on your new space – good luck on the effort!

    Comment by Sutton — 8:19 pm March 14, 2014 #

  9. Awesome place. Lauren and the staff are all amazing.

    Comment by Krm66 — 8:25 pm March 14, 2014 #

  10. Good luck to Lauren and staff! Seems like a great place.

    Maybe now you’ll respond to people’s wait list inquiries…SO frustrating.

    Comment by Marcus — 9:05 pm March 14, 2014 #

  11. If everyone in WS donated a few dollars to the project, it would help Lauren reach her goal of creating a great new space to share with WS families : ) I’m in, are you?

    Comment by Karen — 11:18 pm March 14, 2014 #

  12. This is such a worthy cause and a deserving organization of your support. Both of our children have been lucky to have been a part of this community.

    Comment by Jeff J — 11:46 pm March 14, 2014 #

  13. Bella Mente has the most loving and caring teachers and we feel very fortunate to be a part of the Bella Mente family. My son just loves going to school everyday and has learned so much. I hope with communities help/donations, this small WS business will be able to continue for years to come. Quality childcare is difficult to find, but this place is AMAZING! Please donate whatever you can.

    Comment by Jason — 8:05 am March 15, 2014 #

  14. Karen, to answer your question: no. it’s kinda insulting. like some private swim club asked the entire West Seattle community to donate money to upgrade their hot tub, showers and dressing rooms, but “no, swim club membership is full, you can’t join”

    Comment by sam-c — 10:06 am March 15, 2014 #

  15. Sam-C I agree. While I hope BM makes a successful move, it is odd that a for profit business is asking the public for money, when it doesn’t benefit the entire community. I too was not returned phone calls or emails when looking for childcare, which I can understand to a certain degree, but don’t ask for my dollars later. However that said, I do wish them luck because I hear it is a good spot.

    Comment by Jtm — 6:15 pm March 15, 2014 #

  16. Sorry Sam C. – didn’t mean to insult by asking, I was thinking of it as a gesture of goodwill. Of course every child in WS will not benefit, due to ratio and space restraints. That said, it’s still a worthwhile project that will provide quality care for many. If you feel like donating, do…if you don’t – don’t. I did, and I live in Ballard!

    Comment by Karen — 8:48 am March 16, 2014 #

  17. Thank you so much for the support from our families and friends!

    Marcus, Sam c and jtm : I understand your frustration. Our waitlist and issues surrounding getting children into our program has always been a source of contention for people. Because west Seattle is such a family oriented place and word of mouth here is amazing, Bella Mente reached max capacity within 3 months of being open, which was both exciting and overwhelming. When that happened we started a waiting list and added everyone to it, but the people on the list were angry because they couldn’t get in before their children went to kindergarten. So we started telling people “I’m so sorry but we are full as is our waitlist” which also angered people. So we decided to just add to our website that we are full and because of our waiting list length we are not currently adding children to it. People continue to inquire about care and are not happy with any response that does not include their family joining Bella Mente so we have decided to just continue to give 100 percent of our effort toward the children and families currently in our care and stay true to our vision and hope that that is enough to keep people excited about Bella Mente.
    In this next step of moving our school to a new space, we are not looking for handouts. We are searching for mutually beneficial ways to earn money for our school. We are not a 501(c)3, but because of the nature of our business we are a “non profit.”
    All of our tuition increases are distributed to my teachers in the form of raise. Any extra money that we do make each month goes back into the school toward supplies and projects. And because of this, traditional banks look at my income and the schools “profit” and decide that it’s not a worthwhile business to loan money to even though we have and will continue to be financially responsible for our bills/debt.
    Anyway, Thanks again for everyone’s ideas and kind words. In the coming months as we continue to work toward our goal with fundraisers (date nights for you to drop your children with us for an evening, garage sales, adult sports leagues, art auctions, family photography sessions through our photographer, etc) if one would be helpful for you, I hope you will join us!

    Comment by Lauren Adams — 1:03 pm March 16, 2014 #

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