Three nonprofits earn support for child care, early childhood development

WATERTOWN — More than 600 children and their families in Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties will benefit from funding the Northern New York Community Foundation’s LEAD Council recently awarded to three nonprofit organizations to address child care and early childhood development needs.

LEAD Impact Grant Program awards will support an Imagination Library in the tri-county area, fund expansion of an after-school enrichment program in St. Lawrence County, and help to enhance curriculum at a Canton day care center.

The North Country Library System, Watertown, which serves residents in all three counties, has been awarded $12,000 to start an Imagination Library, a program that mails a free book to children monthly from birth to age 5 in participating communities. The library system already partners with the North Country Prenatal/Perinatal Council to provide early literacy support materials to families enrolled in its accredited home visiting program, Healthy Families Jefferson County, and will work to identify where Imagination Library will have the greatest impact.

“Reading together is one of the most important brain-building activities parents and caregivers can engage in with children,” said Susan Mitchell, North Country Library System director. “Our libraries want to give kids the best start possible and having books in the home is one of the best ways to support parents and caregivers reading with children.”

A two-year pilot phase of the program begins Jan. 1, 2020, with enrollment limited to 100 children each year.

A $10,000 LEAD Impact Grant will help expand an after-school enrichment program at St. Mary’s School in Canton, which partners with local colleges and community organizations to provide classes in robotics, Spanish, and crafts. The grant allows the program to double its enrollment to 100 students while keeping the cost to families affordable. Participants include students from the Canton, Potsdam, Colton-Pierrepont, Lisbon, Madrid-Waddington, Norwod-Norfolk, Ogdensburg, and Herman-DeKalb school districts.

“This makes a critical difference in our after-school program for affordable care and early childhood development,” said Devon Sutton, St. Mary’s School. “Creating opportunities for high-quality child care and enrichment while also supporting healthy families uniquely serves our community.”

Canton Day Care Center was awarded an $1,800 LEAD Impact grant to help the nonprofit purchase materials, training resources and classroom items to enhance curriculum. The center is working to launch a new curriculum focused on social emotional development, literacy, motor skills, diversity, open-ended activities and play.

Last fall, the LEAD Council committed to address child care and early childhood development needs across the region as its strategic focus in 2019. To help make meaningful investments to effectively address this issue and future needs, the Council launched the LEAD Impact Grant Program earlier this year.

“We learned to think of child care and early childhood development as community infrastructure that are critical to our region’s stability. The projects chosen are going to have the greatest impact across the entire tri-county area,” LEAD Council member Cari Knight said. “This will create better opportunities for children and families in our area and give these organizations a necessary boost. Investing in our community from the ground up and, in this case, from its smallest members, is what LEAD was created to do.”

The LEAD Impact Grant Program had up to $25,000 in grant funding available for 2019. The investment is made possible thanks to generous support from the Hyde-Stone Charitable Foundation at the Northern New York Community Foundation, BCA Architects & Engineers, Carthage Savings and Loan Association, and donors to the Friends of the Foundation Annual Community Betterment Fund.

The Council’s decision to focus on child care and early childhood development initiatives comes when the need for access to quality care in the region is at an all-time high. It is a vital quality of life component for many families, and steps to improve child care will strengthen North Country communities. While evaluating the issue, the Council heard from regional child care professionals who shared many strengths and challenges those in the sector face. Council members are presently working to develop a strategic focus for 2020. When announced, up to $25,000 in funding will be made available to nonprofits whose missions align with the focus.

“The LEAD Council continues to fulfill an important emerging role in helping to ensure a continuum of community engagement and stewardship,” said Rande Richardson, Community Foundation executive director. “Most importantly, its members help us become increasingly proactive and strategic in identifying the most effective and impactful ways to deploy donor resources across the tri-county region.”

About the LEAD Council

The LEAD Council was formed in 2014 as advisory committee of the Northern New York Community Foundation empowered to identify and address strategic needs across Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties. The Council is comprised of 22 young professionals who live and work in the tri-county area with an interest in enhancing the quality of life for all in the North Country. LEAD is an acronym that reflects four important guiding principles of the Community Foundation’s work: Leadership, Engagement, Access and Direction.

The Council works to gain a deeper understanding of community needs, issues, and the nonprofit sector to augment the Community Foundation’s mission and work.

About the Northern New York Community Foundation

Since 1929, the Northern New York Community Foundation has invested in improving and enriching the quality of life for all in communities across Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties.

Through strategic partnerships with businesses and organizations, charitable foundations, and generous individual donors, the Community Foundation awards grants and scholarships from an endowment and collection of funds that benefit the community. Its commitment to donors helps individuals achieve their charitable objectives now and for generations to come by preserving legacies of community philanthropy while inspiring others.

The Community Foundation is a resource for local charitable organizations, donors, professional advisors and nonprofit organizations. It also works to bring people together at its permanent home in the Northern New York Philanthropy Center to discuss challenges our communities face and find creative solutions that strengthen the region and make it a great place to live, work, and play.

From left, LEAD Council member Cari Knight, Great Bend; North Country Library System Director Susan Mitchell; library system Youth Services Consultant Angela Newman; and LEAD Council member John Nuber, Clayton. The library system received a $12,000 LEAD Impact Grant to help start an Imagination Library program.