PNC’s ‘Grow Up Great’ Funds More Education Projects

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Joe Shorokey knew surprises such as donated books and handmade puppets were in store for teachers and students when PNC Bank representatives visited Alta Head Start’s Renaissance Learning Center on the city’s south side Tuesday.

But, he says, he nearly fell off his chair when he learned about what else the bank had planned.

PNC announced yesterday it is partnering with DonorsChoose.org, a crowdfunding site that focuses on education initiatives, to provide a $5 million grant for projects across its footprint that focus on early childhood education.

“It’s a fantastic surprise for Alta Care Group,” said Shorokey, Alta’s CEO. “To find out that PNC is doing this national initiative and we get to be a part of that, it’s just fantastic news.”

Alta Head Start serves 845 students throughout Mahoning County, including 72 in the Early Head start program, which focuses on children from birth to age 3, he said.

Ted Schmidt, PNC’s Youngstown regional president, and Ryan Pastore, vice president, client and community relations, joined Shorokey at a press event yesterday afternoon. PNC’s Grow Up Great is a  $350 million initiative in early childhood education.

“As a main street bank, we thrive when our communities thrive,” Pastore said. “We need strong, vibrant communities and one of the best ways to impact that is through education, specifically early childhood education.”

On Tuesday, PNC flash-funded every open preschool project within the bank’s footprint, Pastore said. It also partnered with DonorsChoose to open their access.

“Typically, before today the only way you could be a DonorsChoose recipient was to be a public school. We decided we wanted to change that,” Pastore said. “We wanted to impact more kids so we opened that to Head Start as well.”

The initiative provides a dollar-for-dollar match for every donation made to early childhood initiatives through DonorsChoose, he continued.

Another component involves PNC employees. “Anything with PNC Grow Up Great that you hear about, the volunteerism by our employees is the cornerstone,” Pastore said.

Each PNC employee who volunteered over the past year – more than 14,000 did — was given a $50 DonorsChoose gift card to go online and fund a project of their choice. “That’s a little over $700,000 that we’re going to fund through those gift cards,” Pastore said. “Specifically, in our Youngstown region, that’s 143 employees who donated last year and it’s going to result in over $7,000.”

Alta also will receive $3,000 through PNC’s Grants for Great program that recognizes PNC employees’ volunteer hours.

Schmidt also announced that PNC would provide $8,000 in DonorsChoose gift cards to be given to Alta Head Start teachers. “Joe’s going to figure out who’s going to get them,” he said.

The PNC initiative will provide teachers access to materials “that teachers find are always in short supply,” Shorokey said. “They get the things that they need to run their classrooms as creatively and as diligently as they would like.”

Before Tuesday’s announcement, PNC employees conducted a book drive and made hand puppets for students, reported Gretchen Merritt, an employee at the Boardman PNC branch. They also read to students during the day.

Merritt is part of a committee that volunteers each month at Alta’s Austintown branch.

“It’s great to volunteer,” she said.

Pictured: PNC’s Ted Schmidt, Alta’s Joe Shorokey and PNC’s Ryan Pastore at Tuesday’s press event.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.