• Rotary Club grant enriches playground, helps honor supporter of Children First

    (Front row, l-r) Kumar Mahadevan, Jo Rutstein, Sarah Lodge, Heather Gillon and Children First vice president Carol Butera; (back row, l-r) Bob Stabaugh, Par Reid, Jim Henry, Children First president and CEO Philip Tavill and David Bowman during the dedication of ‘Jo’s Place’

    This winter, Children First requested a grant of $8,000 from the Rotary Club of Sarasota to make improvements to the playground at its Orange Avenue headquarters. The Rotary Club funded the request in full, enabling Children First to install a “Merry-Go-Cycle,” a magnet wall, and large timber stackers.

    After the items were installed, Children First used the opportunity not only to thank the Rotary Club but also to honor a longtime supporter. Jo Rutstein served on the Children First board of directors from 2009-2014, serving as board chair in 2012. She and her husband, Stan, have been wonderful supporters of Children First for many years – as donors, co-chairs of events, and friends. To honor Jo’s contributions, Children First installed a sign near the new playground equipment, naming the area “Jo’s Place.”

    The new equipment is now being used by children ages 3-5 years old. It is developmentally appropriate and encourages children to learn through play, as well as help develop fine and gross motor skills.

    “It is extremely beneficial for children to have access to quality outdoor play spaces,” said Children First president and CEO Philip Tavill. “Children who are able to play outdoors develop stronger immune systems, play more creatively, have more active imaginations, report lower stress levels, and demonstrate greater respect for themselves and others. We are so grateful to the Rotary Club of Sarasota for the generous grant, and thrilled to have this opportunity to honor our dear friend, Jo!”

    Children First is Sarasota County’s exclusive provider of Head Start and Early Head Start programs. For more information, go to childrenfirst.net or call (941) 953-3877.

    About Children First
    Founded in 1961 and designated as one of the top 10 Head Start programs in the country, out of 1,800 similar programs nationwide, Children First strengthens children and families by improving the quality of their lives through a comprehensive approach to development, education, health and well-being. At 13 sites throughout Sarasota County, Children First offers full-day preschool, infant and toddler care, as well as nutrition and health care assistance, to children ages birth to five years old from low-income families. Through Children First, the children receive the social and cognitive skills needed to enter kindergarten and elementary school on track. For more information, call (941) 953-3877 or go to childrenfirst.net.