Column: Spring activities rev up to help kids flourishSpring is a busy time for us here at Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation, especially in our early childhood program areas. We continue to invest in this area to prepare the youngest citizens of our region to be the workers, leaders, and entrepreneurs of tomorrow.
By: Tim Penny, The Republican Eagle
Spring is a busy time for us here at Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation, especially in our early childhood program areas. We continue to invest in this area to prepare the youngest citizens of our region to be the workers, leaders, and entrepreneurs of tomorrow.
We invite you to celebrate the Week of Young Child, April 22-28, with us. This year's theme is "Early Years Are Learning Years." (For more information vist http://www.naeyc.org.)
One way we're marking this annual event is by bringing attention to the ways SMIF is investing in early childhood. In this month's column I'd like to share briefly about some of current early childhood efforts.
We're just launching our newest early childhood program — "Parenting Matters … a workplace education program" — at Lakeview Health Services in Fairmont in partnership with the Fairmont Early Childhood Initiative Coalition. We know that many working families find it difficult to participate in the traditional parenting classes due to conflicting work schedules, time commitments, and cost. To help remove these barriers, SMIF and the Fairmont ECI area engaging parents where they spend a majority of their time: the workplace.
We anticipate that over time dozens of businesses will take advantage of this program as a way to help their employees become better parents. Research shows that employees who believe they are good parents are also better employees. For us, that translates into a win-win for everyone — the business, the community and the families.
Another unique way we are investing in early childhood is by providing free books to organizations through our BookStart grant program. Our 10-year partnership with Capstone continues to grow, as they have graciously doubled the number of books available to 10,000. We are also pleased to be able to offer awardees the option to select from a limited number of board books and bilingual (Spanish and English) books as well as a wide variety of other early childhood books.
Applications for BookStart are due April 17.
We are also recruiting new AmeriCorps LEAP members for our 2012-13 year of service. LEAP participants are placed in early learning centers and they help address the area of social and emotional skills in children ages 0-5, targeted to children of low-income families. This effort leads to skill-building and improves school readiness, which is critical to a successful transition into kindergarten.
Applications for AmeriCorps LEAP members are due June 30.
In addition to these early-childhood efforts, we'll also be announcing the recipients of our bi-annual Incentive Grants. We know that many of these grant recipients will be early childhood projects. Grantees will receive up to $20,000 for efforts focused on early childhood development with entrepreneur development being our other focus area for these grants.
Soon we will also announce the recipients of our Picture-It-Painted awards. This annual program, in partnership with Valspar Corporation, provides free paint for community restoration or beautification projects that encourage local volunteer involvement and community engagement. Early childhood sites are often the beneficiaries.
And finally, our board of trustees and Staff are gearing up for a community site visit to Austin on April 19. This annual event to a selected community is a way for us to celebrate our accomplishments and spend time visiting with some of our local partners. We plan to visit an early childhood partner, two entrepreneurs in Brownsdale, and the Hormel Institute.
If you would like more information on SMIF's early childhood resources or other ways you can partner with us, you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 507-455-3215 or visit to our website at www.smifoundation.org.