2013 Press Release: United Way announces venture grants to support preschool expansion and school literacy programs

For Immediate Release – August 8, 2013

SPRINGFIELD – United Way of Central Illinois presented $13,095.50 in venture grant funding to two Springfield schools to support preschool expansion and literacy programming.

St. Patrick Catholic School was presented a $9,980.00 venture grant to help the school expand its preschool program. Started in August 2012, the preschool program provides a positive, safe learning environment designed to better prepare at-risk children for Kindergarten.  Since opening, growing enrollment pressed the school to split the program’s single classroom into two rooms, utilizing aides to maintain the program curriculum. For the 2013 school year, St. Patrick’s has expanded the preschool program to include a second fully-staffed classroom. United Way funding will provide furniture, educational material and classroom supplies necessary to the preschool program expansion.

“St. Patrick’s started the preschool program to meet a growing need for quality early childhood education programs in our community,” said Gary Sullivan, Executive Director of St. Patrick Catholic School.  “The support of our community and organizations such as United Way allows us to provide our children with the opportunity to succeed in a safe, positive learning environment.”

In recent years United Way has increased funding for early childhood education initiatives such as United Way’s Communityworks Fund and Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.

“Kindergarten readiness is essential to the long term academic success of a child,” said John Kelker, President of United Way of Central Illinois.  “Vital funding for programs such as St. Patrick Catholic School’s preschool program helps assure that all children in Sangamon and Menard counties are provided a solid foundation for lifelong learning.”

Grant Middle School was also presented a $3,115.50 venture grant to purchase books for the Grant Middle School Reads program.  The literacy program, developed in conjunction with the statewide Illinois Reads initiative, aims to create a community of readers that includes every person at the school, not just teachers and students. The program creates a multigenerational book lending program to encourage reading, promote conversation and strengthen relationships between students and staff.  Grant Middle School hopes the project will serve as a model for other schools to encourage schoolwide reading and strengthen relationships.

“United Way volunteers were impressed with Grant Middle School’s schoolwide approach and hope that this literacy program will serve as a model for other area schools,” said Kelker.

United Way’s venture fund was created to provide one-time funding for projects created to enhance the quality of life in Sangamon and Menard counties. Eligible projects must also be aligned with one or more of United Way’s funding priorities which are food, shelter, healthcare, victim services, and educational initiatives. Funding decisions are made by a committee of local volunteers responsible for evaluating grant applications and program outcomes.

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For more information on United Way or to arrange interviews, please contact Jarid Brown, Director of Communications at 217-726-7000 or by email at jbrown@uwcil.org.