Grant awarded for early learning center
The Portland Foundation will receive $500,000 in funding
An effort to create a child care facility and early learning center in Portland has some additional financial backing.
Early Learning Indiana has awarded The Portland Foundation $500,000 from its Early Years Initiative grant program.
The Portland Foundation will receive $432,500 for renovation, equipment and supplies for its planned early learning center and $67,500 for IU Health Jay’s Healthy Beginnings program.
“The Portland Foundation is honored to partner with Early Learning Indiana to provide services for Jay County’s youngest residents,” said foundation executive director Doug Inman in a press release. “The Jay County Early Learning Center will assist in addressing the shortage of high-quality early childhood education opportunities in the community and the Healthy Beginnings program will assist families in providing high-quality prenatal and postnatal care for mothers and babies.”
The Early Years Initiative is a grant program that focuses on enhancing learning and development of infants and toddlers in Indiana. It places special emphasis on serving low-income Hoosiers. It is supported by the Lilly Endowment.
“We only have a few short years to set our youngest Hoosiers on a path to thrive in life, and the work of our grantees across the state will enable us to make the most of these years while deepening our understanding about which efforts are most effective,” said Early Learning Indiana president and CEO Maureen Weber in a press release.
The Portland Foundation announced in May that it has entered into an agreement with Westminster Preschool of Marion to operate Jay County Early Learning Center, a child care facility that will serve approximately 150 newborns through 5-year-old children. It would be located in the former Judge Haynes Elementary School, which the foundation purchased in summer 2022.
The project is estimated at $3.5 million, with The Portland Foundation seeking grants, such as from the Early Years Initiative, to help cover the cost. Beyond grants, the work will be paid for usting The Portland’s Foundation’s reserves. It will be the largest expenditure for a community project in the history of the foundation.
The new early learning center has a goal of providing “high-quality education” for children ages birth through 5.
Healthy Beginnings is a women's and infant health program launched by IU Health Jay after birthing services were discontinued at the hospital in 2020. It offers various services, including car seat fitting, free diapers a milk depot and assistance with medical appointments for women and their infants.
A planning process through the Lilly Endowment's Giving Indiana Funds for Tomorrow (GIFT VII) Community Leadership Grant identified child care as a top priority for Portland and Jay County. It was also listed by all four pathway groups that were part of the Hoosier Enduring Legacy Program (HELP), which assisted the county with how best to utilize its nearly $4 million in federal coronavirus relief funding provided through the American Rescue Plan Act.
Inman initially brought a proposal to Jay County government officials regarding the possibility of partnering on a child care and early learning facility in the Judge Haynes building in late 2021. County officials initially committed $700,000 to the project, then a month later rescinded that decision.
The Portland Foundation's board then decided last summer to move forward with making an offer to purchase the Judge Haynes site in order to secure it for potential use as an early learning center. It started seeking proposals in early 2023 and entered into an agreement with Westminster in May.
For more information about The Portland Foundation’s progress toward creating an early learning center in Jay County, visit portlandfoundation.org.