With 90% of a child’s brain development occurring in the first five years of life, the early experiences and environments in which they have them cause a direct effect on their overall growth and success.
As a leader of the Children First Changemaker Collective, the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation has made two gifts totaling $100,000. Their generosity will support the agency’s $600,000 challenge match to expand its comprehensive services as well as bolster and enrich mental health services, including the addition of a third Early Childhood Mental Health Specialist.
Ranked in the top 1% of more than 1,800 Head Start programs nationwide, Children First serves hundreds of children, ages birth to five, and their families living at or below the Federal Poverty Level ($23,030 for a family of 3) each year. The agency offers services at multiple locations across North Port, Sarasota, and Venice.
“After the devastating experiences of the pandemic and more recently, Hurricane Ian, the need for mental health services has been on the rise. As a foundation dedicated to improving the conditions and quality of life for children and their families, we saw an opportunity to provide critical support to those in need through the enhancement of Children First’s mental health services,” says William Villafranco, co-trustee.
“Because of the generosity of our community partners like Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation, we’re able to not only provide high-quality services and therapies for any child who might need them, but we’re also able to serve them on-site, reducing the barriers for our parents,” says CEO Philip Tavill. “Through classroom support offered by our Mental Health Specialists, as well as individualized emotional and behavioral support for our children and their caregivers, those we serve become empowered to reach their highest potential.”
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.