SC First Steps announces Early Childhood Innovation Grants

Grants funded in part by contributions from Enterprise Holdings Foundation, tax checkoff program

Columbia, S.C. – South Carolina First Steps has awarded competitive grants totaling $282,731 to seven local First Steps nonprofits as part of its Early Childhood Innovation Grants program. The funding will expand programs and services that help prepare children for kindergarten.

Established in 2018, Early Childhood Innovation Grants support local initiatives that have a demonstrated impact on the healthy development and school readiness of young children from birth through age five.

“Located in every county of the state, First Steps nonprofits work in the heart of our communities. They understand the needs of local families, and they know what works when it comes to supporting young children,” said Georgia Mjartan, Executive Director of South Carolina First Steps. “These grants recognize and support the creative ideas that are making a real impact.”

Early Childhood Innovation Grants are also designed to increase the state’s investment in early childhood through public-private partnerships. More than $100,000 of the funding comes from private philanthropy and the state income tax checkoff program, which allows taxpayers to contribute to First Steps on their state income tax form.

A major contribution to this year’s funding pool was provided by the Enterprise Holdings Foundation, which has awarded $15,500 to South Carolina First Steps through its ROAD Forward grants program.

“We are proud to support South Carolina First Steps and its local partnerships in their commitment to ensuring that every child in South Carolina is ready for kindergarten,” said Enterprise Holdings representative Whitney Knudsen. “Advancing diversity, equity and inclusion is a company-wide priority for Enterprise Holdings, and we’re committed to strengthening our community with the help of outstanding organizations like First Steps.”

The Early Childhood Innovation Grants were awarded through a competitive selection progress. A total of nine applications were received, representing 21 counties and $765,211 in funding requests. Selections were made by an independent, three-person review panel. 

Early Childhood Innovation Grant Recipients

Anderson County First Steps: $11,374 to implement the Ready Rosie Active Family Engagement System in partnership with four Anderson County school districts (Anderson School Districts One, Two, Three, and Four). Through this project, 300 Anderson County parents will learn about the developmental phases and needs of their young children, as well as how they can support their child’s overall skills and abilities to ensure they are ready for kindergarten.

Berkeley, Charleston, and Dorchester County First Steps: $198,000 over two years to support the Tri-County Pyramid Play Collaborative, a multi-faceted initiative that integrates the principles of the evidence-based Pyramid Model for supporting children’s healthy development into programs and services for young children and their caregivers. Project outcomes include improving birth outcomes and maternal and child health; strengthening families; improving mental health supports for children and caregivers; reducing suspensions and expulsions within early learning programs; and increasing access to arts, cultural, and nature-based learning activities.

Cherokee County First Steps: $19,000 over two years to implement the Reach Out Project, a county-wide community education and outreach initiative to provide Cherokee County families with the information they need to access available programs and services that support their child’s development and family well-being.

Chesterfield County First Steps: $39,357 over two years to establish a three-year-old classroom at Compass Point, a child development center operated by Chesterfield County First Steps on the campus of Northeastern Technical College that currently serves as a First Steps 4K center. By offering both 3K and 4K services, this project will help address the county’s lack of affordable child care, build children’s school readiness skills for two full years prior to kindergarten, and serve as a learning laboratory for Northeastern Technical College students studying early childhood education.

Colleton County First Steps: $15,000 over two years to create Bags for Babes, an outreach program to provide every Colleton County family with a child under 3 with information about developmental milestones and local services, as well as an age-appropriate book for the child to keep. The bags will be distributed at the local hospital to new parents as well as at well-child care visits within the county’s doctors offices and clinics. The project expects to provide bags to 500 children annually and increase referrals to local school district, Head Start, BabyNet, and First Steps programs.

Topics: Local Partnerships

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