Early learning takes priority as Akron Community Foundation’s grants exceed $1.5 million

Early learning takes priority as Akron Community Foundation’s grants exceed $1.5 million
Nearly half of education grants support early childhood initiatives

AKRON, Ohio (Feb. 28, 2012) – On Friday, Akron Community Foundation granted $222,500 to programs that help prepare young children for success in school. The early learning grants equaled nearly half of the board’s $490,000 in discretionary education funding.

Of the approved grants, $90,000 will fund programs at child care centers, a key area for improvement outlined in Summit County’s First Things First early care and education plan. A $25,000 grant to Family & Children First Council will implement a standardized developmental screening process that will be used by child care providers, physicians and community programs like Help Me Grow, the Ohio Department of Health’s wellness program for young children. The grant will also create a system to refer children with developmental needs to the appropriate service providers.

In addition, a $65,000 grant to Child Guidance & Family Solutions will help train staff at child care centers to identify and address the social and emotional needs of children with behavioral issues in an effort to reduce aggression and expulsion.

According to First Things First coordinator Courtney Hudson, more than 75 percent of the county’s children live in homes where one or both parents work, making them more likely to be cared for and educated in child care centers. “By strengthening the system that cares for these young children, (they) will have a better foundation to start school,” Hudson said.

Other noteworthy grants include $70,000 to the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Western Reserve. In addition to supporting programs at the organization’s Eller Club, the grant will take summer and after-school programming to facilities where children already congregate, such as libraries and community centers. The goal is to provide programming where it is most needed without the expense of building new facilities.

According to the community foundation’s Distribution Committee chair, Rev. Sandra Selby, the funding represents “the most efficient and effective way” to support after-school and summer programming for the community’s at-risk youth. “We are confident in The Boys & Girls Clubs’ leadership and programming, and in their ability to go to the kids where they are, rather than expecting the kids to come to them. This funding is a vote of confidence in that organization’s ability to address a significant community need in an efficient and effective manner.”

This was the fourth consecutive year the board gave priority to early care and education, bringing total funding for such programs to $891,500 since 2009.

The board also ratified 277 donor- and committee-directed grants from 97 designated, donor-advised and scholarship funds totaling $1,047,068. Total grant distributions for the quarter equaled more than $1.5 million. In addition, it received the largest gift in the community foundation’s history: $5 million from Medical Mutual of Ohio to start the Medical Mutual Community Investment Fund, which will make grants that improve all facets of life in Summit County, including education.

The following board-directed grants were made from these discretionary funds, which donors created to support the community’s changing needs in specific areas of interest, or in general: the Arthur Kelly Fund, Charles C. and Dorathea S. Dilley Fund, George Stevens Fund, Helen S. Robertson Fund, James G. Robertson Fund, Ronald L. Stiles Fund, Roush Memorial Fund, Shaw Foundation Fund, William C. Krisher Fund, and the Community Fund:

Asian Services in Action Inc., for the Ready Program, an early childhood development program for children in refugee families, $12,500

Building for Tomorrow, to continue early education programs, special-needs assessments, comprehensive health services, and family support services for children under age 5 living in AMHA housing communities, $95,000

Child Guidance & Family Solutions Inc., for the Toddlers and Preschoolers Succeeding Program, which evaluates, cultivates and enhances the social and emotional well-being of children at child care centers in Summit County, $65,000

Family & Children First Council, to implement a standardized developmental screening and referral process for all children ages birth to 5 in Summit County as part of the First Things First initiative, $25,000

Project GRAD Akron, for the Bridge to Kindergarten school readiness camp for students and their parents in the Buchtel cluster of Akron Public Schools, $25,000

Akron Council of Parent Teacher Associations, to support a leadership training program for parents and establish a districtwide approach to family involvement in schools, $15,000

Akron Council on World Affairs Inc., for the Global Scholars program, which teaches Akron high school students critical thinking skills while they interact with foreign diplomats, $5,000

All-Star Training Club, for the Summer Academic Sports Camp for children and young adults with disabilities, $10,000

Arc of Summit & Portage Counties Inc., for the People Together program, which increases disability awareness and acceptance among students in Summit County schools, $10,000

Big Brothers and Sisters of Summit and Medina Counties Inc., for community- and school-based mentoring programs for at-risk youth, $10,000

BioInnovation Institute in Akron, for the BEST Medicine Engineering Fair, a science fair that encourages middle and high school students to develop solutions to medical problems with the help of professional mentors, $10,000

Boys & Girls Clubs of the Western Reserve, for after-school and summer programs that encourage good character, physical health and academic success in at-risk teens, $70,000

Cleveland Museum of Natural History, to provide free health and science programs to Akron Public Schools students, $5,000

First Book, to purchase books for children living in poverty, $10,000

Hattie Larlham Foundation, to support a new housekeeping vocational program for adults with developmental disabilities, $20,000

Junior Achievement of North Central Ohio Inc., for JA More Than Money, a program that teaches workforce readiness, entrepreneurship, and financial literacy to students in after-school programs at the YMCA, Boys and Girls Clubs, and various Akron Afterschool locations, $10,000

Pastoral Counseling Service of Summit County, to provide social-emotional and behavioral counseling to elementary school students serving an out-of-school suspension, $10,000

Project LEARN of Summit County, to establish three new community classroom sites for adult literacy and GED programs, $20,000

Research Education & Charitable Association for the Benefit of the Chefs & Farmers (Veggie U.), to purchase Earth to Table science kits, which teach fourth-graders in Akron Public Schools about sustainable agriculture and healthy eating, $10,000

Society of St. Vincent de Paul, St. Hilary Church, to provide computers to low-income families with young children, as well as local nonprofit agencies, $5,000

Summit Education Initiative, for Destination College, which prepares students at six local high schools for college by helping them improve their ACT scores, complete their applications, and apply for financial aid, $20,000

Tri-County Jobs for Ohio’s Graduates, to support the Dropout Recovery Program, which provides academic and employment support to Summit County youth who have dropped out of high school, $10,000

Twinsburg City School District, for the Project Star summer reading program, which aims to improve reading proficiency in elementary school students who are reading below grade level, $10,000

Young Men’s Christian Association of Akron Ohio, to provide after-school programming that teaches life skills and healthy behaviors to at-risk girls, $7,500

About Akron Community Foundation
Celebrating 56 years of building community philanthropy, Akron Community Foundation embraces and enhances the work of charitable people who make a permanent commitment to the good of the community. In 1955, a $1 million bequest from the estate of Edwin Shaw established the community foundation. Today, it is a $135 million philanthropic endowment with a growing family of 400 funds established by charitable people and organizations from all walks of life. The community foundation welcomes gifts of all kinds, including cash, bequests, stock, real estate, life insurance and retirement assets, just to name a few. To date, the community foundation’s funds have awarded more than $95 million in grants to qualified nonprofit organizations. For more information about Akron Community Foundation or to learn more about creating your own fund, call Dr. Suzanne Allen or Laura Fink at 330-376-8522.