PNC Provides $55,000 for Early Childhood Programs

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — At Akron Children’s Hospital Mahoning Valley, sometimes the parents of patients get a prescription.

Pediatric physicians write out a “prescription to read” that encourages parents to read to their children through the hospital’s Reach Out and Read program, said Jo Ann Stock, director of development at the Boardman campus.

The program, which not only promotes children reading but also encourages their parents to read to their offspring at an early age and teaches them how, is among nine initiatives the PNC Foundation will fund here.

The $3,000 grant the hospital received also supports free books that are given to patients, Stock said.

Stock and other representatives of agencies that are sharing the $55,000 in grants joined PNC Bank officials Tuesday at the Oh Wow! The Roger & Gloria Jones Children’s Center for Science & Technology.

The grants are part of PNC’s Grow Up Great early childhood education initiative.

“Early interaction and development at a young age is  going to enhance these kids’ opportunities to be successful as they get older, especially during the summer months,” Ted Schmidt, PNC president for Youngstown and Eastern Ohio, said. Studies show that children who don’t stay engaged during summer vacation “fall back and regress in their development,” he said.

Oh Wow was directly awarded $4,284 for development and expansion of its Wow! On Wheels program, which provides classroom resource kits for teachers. The donation helps the children’s center build its capacity to serve the very young, from infancy though age 5, Oh Wow Executive Director Suzanne Barbati said.

“It’s one of our target areas because preschool teachers typically don’t have the content training that teachers have in the older grades. So we provide professional development for those preschool teachers,” Barbati said.

The $3,250 grant awarded to the YWCA of Youngstown supports its STEAM program, which adds art to the science, technology, engineering and mathematics – also known as STEM – disciplines.

“We want to make sure that children early on in their education are getting that exposure to the sciences and the arts,” said Leah Merritt, YWCA executive director. The funds allow the YWCA to purchase an Oh Wow membership, thereby allowing it to bring children to the center for weekly field trips, she said.

“We know that to get the kids off to a good start, they need to have good literacy skills. And even with the skills, they need to be able to function behaviorally in a school environment,” said Joseph Shorokey, CEO of Alta Behavioral Healthcare. Alta received $5,000 to support its Preschool Upstream program, which provides intensive in-home services to preschool children and their families

“We have parent mentors who go into the home a couple times a month and they work with the parents to help them become the first teachers of their kids,” Shorokey continued. Alta provides books and workbooks for the parents to work with the kids to build literacy as well as social and emotional development skills to help them learn how to follow directions, listen and get along with others.

The other recipients of the PNC grants:

  • United Way of Youngstown & Mahoning Valley, $25,000, in support of its Success by 6 pre-kindergarten summer readiness program.
  • Trumbull County Community Action Program Head Start, $4,000, to expand its STEM program.
  • Easter Seals Society of Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana Counties, $3,000, for its summer preschool program.
  • Millcreek Children’s Center, $3,527, to fund a field trip program focused on age-appropriate earth and life sciences topics.
  • Columbiana County Community Action Program Head Start, $4,000, for the Project Resource bag program, parent engagement kits that provide books and other materials for parents to complete with their preschoolers.

Pictured at the grant announcement are Ted Schmidt, PNC Bank; Leah Merritt, YWCA; Bob Hannon, United Way of Youngstown & Mahoning Valley;  Tim Nelson, Easter Seals  and Youngstown Hearing & Speech; Mary Jane Gingher, Mill Creek Children’s Center; Suzanne Barbati, Oh Wow!, Joseph Shorokey, Alta Behavioral Healthcare; and JoAnn Stock, Akron Children’s Hospital Mahoning Valley.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.