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Catholic Charities Head Start of Baltimore Benefits from PNC, Donors Choose Initiative

Stacy M. Brown | 11/3/2017, 6 a.m.
For Mary Gunning, the new PNC Foundation alliance with DonorsChoose.org has been a godsend for Catholic Charities Head Start of ...
Children from Adrienne Kearney’s class at Catholic Charities Harlem Park Head Start in the Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood playing with outdoor play equipment, which was one of the funded projects. Courtesy Photo

For Mary Gunning, the new PNC Foundation alliance with DonorsChoose.org has been a godsend for Catholic Charities Head Start of Baltimore.

Gunning, Head Start’s director, says as a result of the foundation’s $5 million “Grow up Great” program and partnership with DonorsChoose.org, teachers at the Harlem Park site in Sandtown-Winchester have received play equipment, art supplies and other materials that enhance the classroom environment and instruction.

“The teachers were very excited about being able to create their own wish lists and post them on DonorsChoose.org,” Gunning said. “It allowed them to individualize to the specific needs of their classrooms and children.”

Adrienne Kearney, a teacher at Catholic Charities Harlem Park Head Start says she was able to complete her first project under the initiative and is readying a second project.

“We received all of the items that we needed and my students loved it,” Kearney said. “With the project we were able to get things like jump ropes, hula-hoops, soccer balls and other items.”

In April, the PNC Foundation announced it would fund hundreds of pre-K classroom requests as part of a $5 million grant to DonorsChoose.org— the online charity that connects individual donors with classrooms in need— to provide teachers with enhanced classroom resources and experiences to inspire their students’ love of learning.

Officials say PNC entered the alliance to further the mission of the company’s “Grow up Great” program, a $350 million, and multi-year bilingual initiative in early childhood education.

The foundation’s gift to support pre-K classrooms also enables DonorsChoose.org to expand its education, funding platform to include project requests from Head Start teachers for the first time.

“We’re thrilled to be a part of PNC’s longstanding commitment to early childhood learning,” Charles Best, DonorsChoose.org founder, said in a news release. “Their generosity will help us expand the DonorsChoose.org platform to serve Head Start classrooms nationwide, ensuring that many more pre-K teachers have resources they need to give their students a solid educational foundation.”

Teacher requests for educational resources range from books to art supplies, science equipment, field trips and other pertinent items.

A recent study conducted by the National Head Start Association showed that 94 percent of teachers said they need more resources to enrich the classroom, but 84 percent say they are unable to fund experiences they want to provide. The study also noted that 93 percent of those queried either considered buying or bought classroom supplies out of their own pockets; 88 percent reported spending up to $500.

“Head Start supports our nation’s most vulnerable children by offering a comprehensive, high-quality early learning experience that prepares them for kindergarten and strengthens family participation in their children’s learning,” Yasmina S. Vinci, executive director, National Head Start Association, said in a statement. “Our research shows almost all Head Start teachers are spending their own dollars on basic resources for students. This is a great opportunity to empower Head Start teachers to secure the resources needed to maximize the Head Start advantage.”

Also, “PNC’s work with DonorsChoose.org reflects our commitment to helping children get a strong start in life,” said PNC Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer William S. Demchak. “This program will directly improve pre-K teachers’ ability to help more students reach their full potential and through their successes, will strengthen the communities we serve.”

Having the appropriate type and quantity of equipment and educational materials encourages and enhances hands-on learning throughout all development areas, including social-emotional, physical and cognitive, Gunning said.

“This, in turn, helps us to improve our early childhood outcomes and ensures that our children are ready for elementary school,” she said. “In addition, studies have shown that investing in high-quality early childhood development programs can deliver an annual return of 13 percent per child on upfront costs through better outcomes in education, health, employment and social behavior.”

Both Gunning and Kearney noted how grateful they were to PNC for the program.

“Many early childhood education programs like Head Start rely very heavily on alternative funding streams and community partnerships to support our work and mission,” Gunning said. “DonorsChoose.org is an innovative crowd-sharing program that gives educators the flexibility and creativity to dream big and come up with wish lists to enhance the incredible learning that takes place every day in early childhood programs.”