Organizations to receive $7.6M in millage funding


Courtesy Early Learning Neighborhood Collaborative

The organizations to receive the next round of Ready by Five millage funding have been selected.

Approved by the Kent County board of commissioners late last month, the next round of $7.6 million will go to 16 organizations in March of this year and running through December 2021.

The organizations serve expectant parents and families with young children through 23 different programs that provide prenatal support, parenting education, comprehensive health services and early learning opportunities, with a focus on families with the greatest needs, said First Steps Kent, nonprofit manager of the funds.

The programs all address gaps in the system of early childhood services in Kent County; this funding will allow additional families and children to participate in evidence-based programming, First Steps said.

“Home visiting” service providers, which regularly visit families in their homes to offer a variety of home-based education and support, were awarded $2.9 million. Recipients in this category include the Strong Beginnings and Baby Scholars programs operated by Spectrum Health System; Bright Beginnings operated by Kent Intermediate School District; D.A. Blodgett – St. John’s; MomsBloom; Early Learning Neighborhood Collaborative; Easterseals Michigan; Family Futures; and Camp Fire West Michigan 4C.

“Healthy development” service providers were awarded $1.7 million. Programming supports parents and caregivers in obtaining the knowledge and skills to support their child’s health, development and early learning, First Steps said. Recipients include Family Futures, Family Promise, Cherry Health, Arbor Circle and Ready for School.

“Play and learn communities” service providers were awarded $1.6 million. Facilitated play groups guide parents and caregivers through group and individual play activities that model learning opportunities and build understanding of child development, First Steps said. Recipients include Grand Rapids Community College, Camp Fire West Michigan 4C, Early Learning Neighborhood Collaborative, Comprehensive Therapy Center and Cherry Health.

“Healthy and safe home” agencies, which address environmental health hazards in the home, were awarded $1.4 million. Recipients include Cherry Health, Healthy Homes Coalition of West Michigan and the Kent County Health Department.

A resident proposal review board comprised of parents and other community members reviewed all funding proposals, which were approved by the First Steps board before going to the county.

Kent County voters approved the Ready by Five Early Childhood Millage on Nov. 6, 2018.

The six-year millage generates approximately $5.7 million each year for community-based early childhood programs, meant to ensure all children and their families have access to vital services.

All millage dollars go through an independent audit and are reported to the Kent County Board of Commissioners each year.

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