PNC Foundation, DonorsChoose.org bring spring sunshine to Harlem Park Head Start

Deborah Bailey | 4/7/2017, 6 a.m. | Updated on 4/6/2017, 1:19 p.m.
PNC Foundation will fund hundreds of pre-K classroom requests as part of a new $5 million grant to DonorsChoose.org to ...
PNC Bank Regional President for Greater Maryland, Laura L. Gamble with students and staff of Catholic Charities Head Start at Harlem Park Elementary School on Tuesday, April 4, 2017. PNC Foundation will fund hundreds of pre-K classroom requests as part of a new $5 million grant to DonorsChoose.org to provide teachers with resources necessary to inspire a love of learning in their students. Courtesy Photo/PNC Foundation

Adrienne Kearney-Clemons will be able to spruce up her classroom at Catholic Charities’ Head Start - Harlem Park Elementary School without going into her own pockets this spring, thanks to a new initiative launched this week by PNC Foundation and DonorsChoose.org.

Like all caring teachers, Kearney-Clemons purchases needed supplies for students that just aren’t in the budget of schools serving low-income communities.

While K-12 schools have turned to crowd sourced funding at sites such as DonorsChoose.org to raise money for school supplies, pre-schools and programs like Head Start were not eligible to post requests on the popular crowdfunding site.

Thanks to PNC Foundation, all that changed this week. Laura L. Gamble, PNC Bank Regional President for Greater Maryland announced the PNC Foundation’s “Grow Up Great” program has reached an agreement with DonorsChoose.org to include requests from early childhood education teachers, including Head Start classroom teachers.

“PNC will match, dollar-for-dollar, every preschool donation made to schools on DonorsChoose.org in the locations where the bank has offices,” said Gamble, when announcing the foundation’s $5 million gift to fund pre-school requests on the crowdsourced site.

“This is a great way for all of us to call attention to the value of investing in early childhood education," Gamble said. “A dollar invested in early childhood education is the best investment. It’s irreparable.”

As part of the announcement event, Catholic Charities Head Start teachers and students at Harlem Park Elementary School received T-shirts, books, gift cards, puppet kits, piggy banks, lunch bags and an iPad. The children were also serenaded with a performance by the Opera Bears, a local group dedicated to ensuring Opera is accessible to children.

The day was a game changer for Kearney-Clemons, her new co-instructor Shannon Bishop, and the entire Catholic Charities Head Start staff.

“These are my babies. I have a passion for them,” said Kerney-Clemons who first connected with Head Start when her own children were enrolled in the program and has now served on the Head Start staff for more than 20 years.

“It’s the first time I’ve witnessed anything of this magnitude,” said Kearney-Clemons. I’m very excited and looking forward to participating in the DonorsChoose.org option created by PNC. I’m one of those teachers who puts a lot of money and time into creating a classroom experience for my children.”

Since the “Grow Up Great” program was founded, PNC employees have logged more than 652,000 hours for the initiative through a progressive policy that allows 40 hours of paid time off each year to volunteer. Volunteers have collected more than 930,000 books, art supplies, hats, mittens and other items that have been donated for use in classrooms or for the personal well-being of preschool students.

Christine Flores, second year employee with PNC’s Wealth management team is excited about having a little seniority with the bank and is venturing out beyond corporate headquarters to serve the community.“This is my second year at PNC. I’ve always been interested in helping out with kids and the community,” Flores said.

PNC Grow Up Great is a $350 million, multi-year, bilingual initiative that began in 2004 to help prepare children from birth to age five for success in school and life