Eluned & Edward Russell Foundation Grants $7,500 for Children First’s Helen R. Payne Center


Money will support needs of infants and toddlers from low-income families

Children First recently received a $7,500 grant from the Eluned & Edward Russell Charitable Foundation to outfit a new infant and toddler classroom at the agency’s Helen R. Payne Center, located on 33rd Street in Sarasota. The historic site is one of 13 early learning centers Children First operates in Sarasota County for at-risk children under age five.

Money from the grant will go toward the purchase of age-appropriate furnishings, equipment and other educational and developmental resources needed to enhance Children First’s services to children three years and younger living in Sarasota’s Newtown community. Such programs are critical given research which shows that early access to fundamentals like reading, vocabulary, nutrition and a nurturing environment plays an essential role in helping children living in poverty to develop on pace with their peers.

Over 90% of the children and families served by Children First live at or below the federal poverty level of $20,160 for a family of three.

“Through this grant, the Eluned & Edward Russell Charitable Foundation is helping ensure that the most vulnerable members of our community get a strong foundation on which to learn and grow,” said Philip Tavill, president & CEO of Children First. “We are deeply grateful to them for their generosity.”

About Children First

Founded in 1961 and designated as one of the top 10 Head Start programs in the country, out of 1,800 similar programs nationwide, Children First strengthens children and families by improving the quality of their lives through a comprehensive approach to development, education, health and well-being.

At 13 sites throughout Sarasota County, Children First offers full-day preschool, infant and toddler care, as well as nutrition and health care assistance, to children ages birth to five years old from low-income families. In the program, children receive the social and cognitive skills needed to enter kindergarten and elementary school on track. Additionally, the agency provides more than 50% of the children’s weekly nutritional needs. Children First also helps families with parenting skills and literacy classes, career training and referrals for housing, food, clothing and employment assistance.

For more information on Children First, please contact Kristen Theisen at 941-953-3877, ext. 124 or ktheisen@childrenfirst.net.