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Web Site Digs Up Little Jewels for City Kids
By Heidi Anderson
Noe Valley mom Amy Penticoff had a problem. She couldn't keep the endless flyers, brochures, and scrawled phone numbers -- all related to getting out and about in the city with her family -- on her fridge. Scraps of paper would fall to the floor or a class brochure would get lost under something else, and she'd miss the signup deadline.
Chris Loughran, another local mom, wasn't satisfied relying on chance meetings with other parents to gather information about good after-school programs for her son and daughter.
Glen Park resident Kim Boyd Bermingham was equally frustrated by how long it took her to ferret out a Tiny Tots program for her two sons.
So the day these three women met at Glenridge Cooperative Nursery School, an idea was born: GoKid.
GoKid (www.gokid.org) is a web site for San Francisco parents who are looking for things to do and places to go with their children. It covers schools, parks, outings, special classes, restaurants, city services, even a calendar of events. There is also a chat room, where parents can post their own questions -- or answer someone else's -- or just advertise a garage sale.
Bermingham, Penticoff, and Loughran bill their site as a "comprehensive guide to the parenting and caretaking of kids in the city we love."
And the three founders have lots of caretaking experience from which to draw. Penticoff, a web developer who lives on 21st Street near Alvarado School, is mother to 4-year-old Maggie. Loughran lives with her husband Pat in the Sunnyside District and shuttles the kids, Ryan, 8, and Katie, 6, to Fairmount School every day. Bermingham is a proud alumnus of the Noe Valley Co-op Nursery School, having attended in the 1970s. Now, along with her husband Anthony, she's busy raising Dylan, 4, and Aodhan, 2, when not working as a legal aide at the San Francisco Rent Board.
Though it's only seven months old, GoKid is already packed with information. The homepage greets you with a cheerful note from the moms, friendly graphics (created by Penticoff's husband Mike Kerwin, owner of Spike Design), and a list of tempting topics to explore.
Click on Out of the Fog, and you'll learn about hiking trails around the Bay Area. Under Kids Celebrations, there are 15 places to host a child's party. (One excellent suggestion, if you've got a group of young'uns you just know will be trampolining off your couch after they've digested their cake, is Mission Cliffs Climbing Club on Harrison Street.) This spring the site also had a roundup of summer camps and classes for all age groups.
One of the most popular features is Kid Friendly Eats, restaurant reviews offering detailed advice on price and quality, and real-live mom and dad customer comments. GoKid also uses a five-star (actually, crayon) rating system.
Because GoKid's three main moms have ties to Noe Valley, the site is well stocked with kid-friendly spots in the neighborhood. Among the local cafés with high crayon ratings are the Diamond Corner Café, Pasta Pomodoro, Rin's, and the Fountain of Youth ice cream parlor.
Savor Restaurant on 24th Street also scores big. "Savor's kid-friendliness is so much in the attitude," says Penticoff, who appreciates the warmth the Savor staff showed her daughter when she was a bubbling 2-year-old. "They'd bring her lemons to squeeze to make lemonade. She loved it."
GoKid lists dozens of shops selling clothes, furniture, and toys for children. While researching Peek-a-Bootique on Castro Street, Penticoff says, she found out that it was the only children's consignment shop in the city.
Last month, Penticoff was checking out a tip that a Noe Valley video store (First Choice Video) offered a great deal: five videos for five days for $5. The tip was solid, and you'll soon find it on the web site under Gear and Supplies.
"You might think that's excessive, but on a rainy weekend five videos could be a fun thing to try," Penticoff says.
Maintaining a web site of this nature would be an ambitious project for anyone, but it's a special achievement for moms with small children and a host of other obligations.
All three women contribute several hours a week to their digital labor of love. Penticoff estimates she spends at least 20 hours a week on the site. The other two don't keep close track, but guess it's about 10 hours a week apiece.
"We would all like to eventually pay ourselves," Penticoff laughs, admitting that the site is funded by their personal checkbooks. Right now they're looking for grants to keep things going.
The moms are also asking for your help. Know a great place to get your kid's hair cut? Let Loughran know. Had a great restaurant experience lately? E-mail the name and address and a few comments to Penticoff. Did your child take a karate class that didn't go well? Tell GoKid why.
"We have used up only 10 percent of the available content," says Loughran, "and we're hoping the community will help us stay more up-to-date."
Loughran emphasizes that GoKid is homespun and sticks close to San Francisco. "There are so many little jewels around the city. Parents e-mail us all the time about places we've never heard of."
And all three moms hope their site will attract other San Francisco families who want to grow closer to their community. "We want this to become the first place parents think of when they want to know about something," says Bermingham.
So far, the signs are encouraging. Penticoff reports that the site received over 500 hits in the month of April, all without publicity.
And don't forget it's paperless, the GoKid founders say. If you log on, you might save a tree, and unclutter your fridge at the same time.
To check out the site, go to gokid.org. To add your reviews and ideas, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, cloughran@go kid.org, or email@example.com.