RICHMOND, Va.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--The Virginia Early Childhood Foundation (VECF) announced today that the Danville Regional Foundation (DRF) has awarded an unprecedented five-year grant of over $5.4 million for Smart Beginnings Danville-Pittsylvania County to dramatically expand the region’s commitment to school readiness for thousands of young children. This sizable investment, which represents one of the largest grants ever awarded to further early childhood development initiatives in the Commonwealth, will also advance future workforce development in South Central Virginia.
Smart Beginnings is a community partnership with leadership and support provided by the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation and United Way Danville-Pittsylvania County.
“We believe that this is an extremely worthwhile investment that creates the foundation for educational achievement, a strong regional workforce, and actively engaged citizens that will build a solid future for our region,” said Karl Stauber, President & CEO of the Danville Regional Foundation. “Our board was passionate about helping the Smart Beginnings community partners and early childhood stakeholders achieve the early learning goals and objectives that have been established for the Danville and Pittsylvania County region.”
A 2008 investment by the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission, combined with General Assembly funds from the VECF, had provided seed money to help build an infrastructure of quality early learning programs and services in South Central and Southwest Virginia. The success of those initial investments leveraged the DRF’s decision to significantly raise the bar on the region’s early childhood development efforts with a multi-million dollar financial commitment.
Governor Bob McDonnell praised the Danville Regional Foundation and the Tobacco Commission for their vision, along with support from the General Assembly and the leadership of the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation. “It is through these types of public and private partnerships that Virginia continues to move forward in educational and workforce excellence,” he said. “Two years ago, the Tobacco Commission stepped beyond their usual funding to invest in the VECF’s long term strategy that boosts the region’s long-term economic prospects. That support helped leverage this investment from the Danville Regional Foundation. This is Virginia entrepreneurship at its best.”
“With shared strategies, vision and investments from the DRF, the General Assembly, the private sector and the Tobacco Commission, we have been able to bring Virginia’s Smart Beginnings initiatives to nearly every city and county in the South Central and Southwest regions,” said Scott L. Hippert, President of the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation. “These efforts unite community leaders around the common goal of transformative changes related to the healthy development and education of young children. This collaborative model eliminates duplication, while also promoting strong educational outcomes, cost savings on healthcare and remedial services, and a return up to $17 for every $1 invested.”
Key initiatives to be funded over the next five years by the resources of the DRF’s grant will include:
- Ensuring that young children have access to high quality early learning experiences, whether in childcare, Pre-K classrooms, or at home with parents;
- Working with childcare centers, which make up the 5th largest number of small businesses in Virginia, to improve their program quality and enhance the skills of their workforce through voluntary participation in the Virginia Star Quality Initiative;
- Creating partnerships with schools, faith based organizations, and employers to provide parent education opportunities;
- Implementing effective transitions from Pre-K programs, or from home, into kindergarten;
- Working with families, schools, and the healthcare community to reduce childhood obesity and improve the overall health of children;
- Expanding the region’s tutoring programs to help young children meet or exceed educational standards in grades K-3.
Another exciting aspect of this initiative is $2 million designated for the VECF to assist the Danville Public Schools in building a new high-quality Pre-K facility that will create an additional 216 slots for 4-year olds by the fall of 2012. The facility will also provide shared space to fully integrate early childhood initiatives with local school systems.
Dr. Sue Davis, Danville Division Superintendent of Public Schools, said, “We are thrilled that the consistent success of Grove Park Preschool will be duplicated on the north side of Danville with this new facility. The future quality of life in our city and region depends on a good educational foundation for our students whose entire lives will now be enhanced through the Smart Beginnings partnership initiative.”
Smart Beginnings Danville-Pittsylvania County includes leadership from a broad-base of business, civic and education leaders and parents, with local partnerships coordinated by United Way of Danville and Pittsylvania County. Early childhood stakeholders in healthcare, social services and other organizations work together to ensure that all of the region’s young children, ages 0-5, are healthy and prepared to be successful in school.
"There is no greater investment that we can make than in our region's children,” said Dr. Tiffany M. Franks, Chair of the Smart Beginnings Leadership Council and President of Averett University. “When we support today’s young children, we are preparing the workforce of tomorrow that is essential to the long term vitality of our region."
Jeffrey Lacker, President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, applauded the Danville Regional Foundation investment in early childhood, drawing reference to Federal Reserve studies that demonstrate the economic impact of school readiness. "There is solid research demonstrating the powerful and long-lasting effects of high quality investments in early childhood development. Danville and Pittsylvania County are on the right track. Investments like these are essential for healthy economic growth in the years ahead."
Patrick Jinks, President & CEO, United Way of Danville-Pittsylvania County, concluded, “It is very exciting to see the vision, energy, momentum, and mobilization of resources put toward preparing the children in our region for a solid educational start. We could not be focused on a more important goal. Many partners have come together, working hand in hand with parents, to commit to this work, which is another indicator that our community is turning a corner toward a brighter future.”
About the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation: As an innovative leader in creating results-oriented initiatives and collaborative partnerships to help the Commonwealth’s young children achieve lifelong success, the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation acts as a catalyst for workforce development and economic prosperity. To learn more about the VECF and its many initiatives designed to transform future prospects for economic growth in Virginia, such as Smart Beginnings and the Virginia Star Quality Initiative, visit www.vecf.org.
About United Way of Danville-Pittsylvania County: United Way advances the common good by creating and fostering opportunities for all in the areas of education, financial stability, and health. United Way mobilizes and convenes stakeholders around community-wide solutions to critical issues. To learn more about United Way of Danville-Pittsylvania County, visit www.dpuway.org.