As part of an on-going effort in environmental stewardship for Sarasota County, Children First is working to create a more sustainable future through a cross-sector partnership, Partners for Green Places (PGP).
Launched in October of 2019 with the goal of encouraging organizations and businesses to commit to energy efficiency and sustainability, Children First was ultimately selected as one of three nonprofit organizations to pilot this prestigious initiative.
Having already undertaken several sustainability efforts including solar hot water heaters and energy efficient insulation, PGP created further opportunity for Children First to strengthen its environmental impact by assisting the agency in conducting a detailed energy audit.
“Based on our organization’s previous efficiency improvements, the PGP team decided to audit our North Port campus. The structure was built in 2007 and in need of substantial upgrades. After receiving an energy assessment and implementing new efficient practices, our North Port campus has seen a 20-25% reduction in energy usage, as well as a 40% reduction in water usage. This helped us to realize Children First’s full potential in becoming a catalyst for sustainable change in our community,” says CEO Philip Tavill.
In September of 2021, Children First celebrated the successful installation of new solar panels at the agency’s main campus in Sarasota. The 117.26 kW photovoltaic solar system was completed by Brilliant Harvest and is on track to produce 95% of the site’s electricity needs in its first year, with net savings of $6,000 or more and an overall goal to become net-zero for all electricity consumption moving forward.
Current and future Children First sustainability projects include implementation of LED lighting at all 15 facilities, upgrading all HVAC units to high efficiency heat pumps with programmable thermostats, investing in resource efficiency to promote conservation throughout the organization, and a future solar photovoltaic system installed at other locations, including North Port.
“With nearly 90% of our families living below the Federal Poverty Level ($21,960 for a family of three), these investments from our community partners could not come at a more critical juncture,” says CEO Philip Tavill. “Every efficiency translates into more support for our mission, which means a higher level of service for more children and families. The future looks brighter than ever before as we continue to benefit from ‘bringing sunshine’ to Children First through sustainable energy practices.”
Partners for Green Places is a collaboration between the City of Sarasota and Sarasota County sustainability, Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation, and Gulf Coast Community Foundation. The pilot program, seeded by the Partners for Places matching grant program, a joint project of The Funders’ Network for Smart Growth and Livable Communities and the Urban Sustainability Directors Network, grew to include William G. and Marie Selby Foundation and Community Foundation of Sarasota County. Seeing the potential for greater impact, DreamLarge made a catalytic investment in establishing a strategy, brand, and platform to showcase the partnership between philanthropy and sustainability and use it as an inspirational tool to drive awareness and adoption of sustainable measures.
About Children First:
Founded in 1961 and ranked in the top 1% out of over 1,800 Head Starts 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 15 sites throughout Sarasota County, Children First offers full-day preschool, infant and toddler care, and 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.