Children First receives nearly $180,000 in support of scholarships, family strengthening and sustainability

Funds come from a variety of area foundations and anonymous supporters

This is one of the banners on Children First’s website. Image courtesy Children First

The cost of child care has risen more than 200% in the past three decades while the average family income has increased by 143%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Consumer Price Index analysis.

“As the exclusive provider of Head Start and Early Head Start services for Sarasota County, Children First serves nearly 800 children and their families living at or below the Federal Poverty Level ($23,030 for a family of three),” with services provided at 15 locations, the organization points out.

To support its critical work, the agency has received $60,000 from the Roberta Leventhal Sudakoff Foundation, $20,000 from the Harry Sudakoff Foundation, $10,000 from the Sarasota County Foundation, $5,000 from the Harold C. & Jacqueline F. Bladel Foundation, $1,200 from the MSC Foundation, and $1,000 from the India Benton Lesser Foundation for scholarship support, a news release notes.

Scholarships provide comprehensive services, “including early childhood education, nutrition, emotional and behavioral support, and family strengthening services for the most vulnerable children and families living in our community,” the release says. Withscholarships paying for full-day infant and toddler care, as well as pre-school education, parents “receive the opportunity to strengthen their finances and ultimately achieve self-sufficiency,” the release explains.

In addition, “Children First received $40,000 from Anonymous Supporters” to cover expenses of five classes offered through the agency’s Families First Institute, $30,000 from Anonymous Supporters to support the expansion of the agency’s Family Strengthening Services, and $2,500 from the Synovus Foundation to support a Calendar-Based Budgeting class, the release adds.

The Families First Institute is an award-winning, family-focused initiative that offers comprehensive curricula to the community at-large, focusing on child development, parenting strategies, career and personal growth, money management, and more, the release points out.

Children First also received a $7,500 grant from Suncoast Charities for Children and Florida Power & Light for “Bringing the Experience to Children” with an environmentally focused curriculum, as well as a $2,000 grant from Suncoast Charities for Children to support 60 pairs of classroom shoes and 86 hygiene kits, the release notes.

“With the average enrolled family earning less than $14,000 per year, the cost of organized child care would otherwise pose a significant challenge to the lives and well-being of those we serve,” says Children First CEO Philip Tavill in the release. “Our number one goal is to strengthen our children and families to the point of success and self-sufficiency, where they will no longer require our services,” he added in the release. “This is a monumental task that could not be accomplished without the incredible support — whether it be for scholarships, family strengthening, or other needs — that we receive from our community.”

Founded in 1961, Children First is ranked in the top 1% out of more than 1,800 Head Starts nationwide. At its 15 sites throughout Sarasota County, Children First offers full-day preschool, infant and toddler care, and nutrition and health care assistance to children from birth to age 5 who live in low-income families, the release explains. “Through Children First, the children receive the social and cognitive skills needed to enter kindergarten and elementary school on track.”

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