“While we celebrate increased public and philanthropic investments in early childhood, we must also take a closer look at the distribution of these investments. Examining who and what are being prioritized is key.”
OVER THE PAST YEAR, hundreds of millions of federal, local and philanthropic dollars have flowed into communities to support the well-being of children and families. While this funding is essential, it is not enough. The foundation partners with numerous community organizations to help them leverage available funding, become more sustainable and strengthen their ability to advance equitable outcomes for children and families. Here is what some of them were up to in 2021.
The opening of the new and much-anticipated West Lakes Early Learning Center (ELC) in April 2020 was nothing short of remarkable. While the COVID-19 pandemic was forcing early childhood education programs to close, and early childhood educators were forced to leave the field, the center overcame these obstacles and opened its doors to the community of West Lakes in Orlando, Florida. “When we reached out to the families who registered their children to attend the center, we found that they were from our community and that their parents and caregivers were essential workers,” says Alfreda Clark, Center Director. “These families had to go to work. We knew we had to open.”
Early childhood educators were on the front line of the pandemic as essential workers. And they continue to put themselves at risk to serve the community. Yet these essential workers — mostly Black and brown women — have been historically overworked and underpaid. They are rarely given the time and resources they need to advocate for themselves and the young children and families they serve daily. On April 30, 2021, three of our Early Childhood Initiative partners — the District of Columbia Association for the Education of Young Children, the D.C. Family Child Care Association and the District of Columbia Head Start Association — hosted the DC Early Educator Experience (DC Early EdX). These host organizations are led by and made up of early childhood professionals, including teachers, program directors and administrators.
To address inequities in community food access and to build a more equitable and sustainable regional food system, FRESHFARM works to reduce barriers that many face to access healthy, local food. The nonprofit offers farmers markets and farm stands across D.C., Maryland (Montgomery County) and Virginia (Fairfax and Arlington counties) and provides wholesale distribution to community-based organizations. In conjunction with these efforts, FRESHFARM partners with early childhood programs on local procurement and nutrition education through its ChildCare Share program. This program provides an opportunity for busy parents and caregivers to pick up ingredients for a nutritious family meal at the same time they pick up their children — and it also works to ensure that early childhood educators have the resources they need to introduce healthy food to the community’s youngest eaters.
Passion, persistence and flexibility — three core values strongly embodied by Life Pieces to Masterpieces (LPTM) and its Co-Founder and Executive Director, Mary Brown. Foundation partner LPTM is an arts-based program that serves Black boys and young men from age 3 to young adulthood who live in Wards 7 and 8 of the District of Columbia.