Early Connections 2017-18 Annual Report

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<strong>Annual</strong> <strong>Report</strong><br />

<strong>2017</strong>-20<strong>18</strong><br />

200 West 11th Street<br />

Erie, PA 16501<br />

(814) 874-0144

Dear Reader,<br />

Each day, when directors, teachers, and staff walk into <strong>Early</strong> <strong>Connections</strong>’ centers, we look forward to the day<br />

because we know we will watch wonderful things happen. Some days will be noisy and messy, and others will be<br />

quieter and maybe even tidy! The children in our classrooms will make friends, they will negotiate, they will ask<br />

questions, they will grow, they will learn something new, they will discover something that interests them. We<br />

are here to guide children on that journey, to help them succeed and be excited by what they are learning.<br />

We partner with our families and our community partners to provide children with the best possible<br />

experiences during these early years. Together, we can develop every child’s love of learning and help each<br />

child find the path to success throughout school. We look ahead to the wonderful future each child can have!<br />

In this report, we focus on <strong>Early</strong> <strong>Connections</strong>’ work and activities throughout the <strong>2017</strong>-20<strong>18</strong> year, not only<br />

within our organization but in cooperation with families, friends, and our community. We pledge to continue<br />

our commitment to support young children and their families through leadership, advocacy, and quality<br />

programs in early childhood education!<br />

Thank you for your interest in <strong>Early</strong> <strong>Connections</strong>!<br />

Sincerely,<br />

Darlene E. Kovacs, Executive Director<br />

Board of Directors<br />

<strong>2017</strong>-20<strong>18</strong><br />

Board President<br />

Laura Schaaf<br />

Barber National Institute<br />

Board Vice President<br />

Michael Plazony<br />

Kemper Home Service Co.<br />

Board Secretary<br />

John VanTassel<br />


Board Treasurer<br />

Lori M Hetrick<br />

Village at Luther Square<br />

Jacqui Catrabone<br />

Strategy Solutions<br />

Sarah Howard<br />

Wellspring of Life LLC<br />

Katie Jones<br />


Michael Thomas, Esq.<br />

MacDonald Illig Jones & Britton<br />

Dr. Janet Wojtalik<br />

Former Special Education<br />

teacher, School Administrator,<br />

and Author<br />

Administrative Staff<br />

Darlene E. Kovacs<br />

Executive Director<br />

Michelle Harkins<br />

Associate Executive Director<br />

Family Support Program<br />

Supervisor<br />

Matt Turek<br />

Vice President of Finance<br />

Tracy Robison Chandler<br />

Vice President of Professional<br />

Development<br />

Kimberly Beers<br />

Vice President<br />

of Outreach/Success By 6<br />

Erie’s Future Fund Scholarship<br />

Director<br />

Holly Platte<br />

Vice President of Human Resources<br />

Abby Perry<br />

Family Support Case Manager<br />

Jayne Deutsch<br />

Administrative Assistant<br />

<strong>Early</strong> Care and Education Directors<br />

Maggie Heslop<br />

Nancy Dahlquist<br />

<strong>Early</strong> <strong>Connections</strong>, City Center<br />

Carlie Eck<br />

<strong>Early</strong> <strong>Connections</strong>, Union City<br />

Kate Beer<br />

<strong>Early</strong> <strong>Connections</strong>, Housing<br />

Authority of the City of Erie<br />

Stephanie King<br />

<strong>Early</strong> <strong>Connections</strong>, West Side<br />

Stephanie McIntosh<br />

<strong>Early</strong> <strong>Connections</strong>, North East<br />

Maggie Jaraczewski<br />

<strong>Early</strong> <strong>Connections</strong>, West Ridge

The research clearly demonstrates high-quality early childhood<br />

opportunities help children succeed.<br />

~ Tim Kaine<br />

About Us<br />

For over 100 years, <strong>Early</strong> <strong>Connections</strong> has provided programming for young children and families, and we are<br />

dedicated to providing high-quality early learning opportunities for the young learners in our centers. We take<br />

pride in our history in our community and recognize the accomplishment of over a century of dedication and hard<br />

work. However, we never lose focus on the future and we continue to engage in planning and partnerships that will<br />

move <strong>Early</strong> <strong>Connections</strong> forward in our service to the community. We recognize the emerging concerns of new<br />

families in Erie County, and strive to meet the early education needs of an increasingly-diverse population.<br />

Administrators and staff are alert to new opportunities, new research, and current trends in the field of child care<br />

and education.<br />

Currently, <strong>Early</strong> <strong>Connections</strong> provides quality Keystone STARS 3 and 4-level programming at six sites in the City of<br />

Erie, Union City, and North East. STARS is a quality rating system used by Pennsylvania to provide a framework for<br />

quality early childhood programming based on specific standards, with one STAR being entry level in the system<br />

and four STARS being the highest quality. STARS sets requirements for early childhood programs to promote the<br />

best and safest learning environment possible for children. This type of high-quality environment contributes to a<br />

child’s overall success. In February, 20<strong>18</strong>, <strong>Early</strong> <strong>Connections</strong> opened a new center in Fairview to better serve the<br />

West County area, and this location operates using STAR 4 standards while moving through the STARS process.<br />

<strong>Early</strong> <strong>Connections</strong>’ staff are competent and qualified, and each person has a heart for helping young children<br />

develop and learn. As a result, children in our classrooms experience developmentally-appropriate learning<br />

activities, from infancy through school-age, which fulfill the PA <strong>Early</strong> Learning Standards and are also engaging<br />

and interesting to young learners. Children's learning and development is supported through high quality<br />

programming, utilizing years of evidence-based research that supports long-term positive impacts on a child<br />

(http://www.highscope.org). Unfortunately, as has been reported for several years, young children in Erie County<br />

are considered "high risk" for early school failure (OCDEL Reach and Risk <strong>Report</strong>). Quality early childhood<br />

education provides a positive long-lasting effect on a child’s educational and economic future, in turn helping<br />

improve their community’s economy and future workforce (http://www.readynation.org).<br />

We look back at all we have built throughout our history, but we are focused on the future and moving forward to<br />

fulfill our mission by helping young children and families find success. As a result, we collaborate with many<br />

organizations throughout Erie County, including:<br />

Erie Public Schools<br />

Iroquois School District<br />

Union City Area School District<br />

North East School District<br />

Housing Authority of the City of Erie<br />

United Way of Erie County<br />

<strong>Early</strong> <strong>Connections</strong> participates in:<br />

North East Community Helping in Learning and Development (N.E.CHILD)<br />

Erie Coalition for a Trauma Informed Community<br />

Nonprofit Partnership Executive Directors Forum<br />

Erie Together<br />

Union City Roundtable<br />

Union City Family Support Center<br />

Erie County Office of Children and Youth<br />

NAMI<br />

4 N.I.N.E.<br />

Northwest Tri-county Intermediate Unit 5<br />

Northwest Regional Key, <strong>Early</strong> Learning Resource Center (ELRC)<br />

<strong>Early</strong> <strong>Connections</strong> has an agreement with these organizations to help provide early care and education for children<br />

experiencing homelessness or similar challenges:<br />

Erie United Methodist Alliance (EUMA)<br />

Mercy Center for Women<br />

Erie Family Center<br />

We welcome questions regarding our work, and invite you to read our <strong>Annual</strong> <strong>Report</strong> in the pages that follow.<br />

<strong>Early</strong> <strong>Connections</strong> is truly dedicated to creating lifelong learners through exciting and engaging programs!

<strong>Early</strong> Care & Education<br />

Providing early care and education<br />

programming for children ages 6 weeks<br />

to 12 years<br />

Quality early learning programs for 300+ children ● 7 locations<br />

including 1 in North East and 1 in Union City ● Licensed by PA Dept.<br />

of Human Services ● Participates in Keystone STARS ● Inclusive<br />

classrooms at two centers ● Free meals which consist of breakfast,<br />

lunch and snack (The USDA Nondiscrimination Statement can be found<br />

at https://www.fns.usda.gov/fns-nondiscrimination-statement) ●<br />

Creative Curriculum used in all classrooms ● Accept Child Care Works<br />

● Parent and Community Involvement ● Summer Camp<br />

Pre-K Counts (PKC)<br />

State-funded Pre-K program for<br />

at-risk children who are between<br />

age 3 and younger than the age for<br />

entry into kindergarten<br />

Free, five half-days a week high<br />

quality preschool - kindergarten<br />

readiness program ● 215 children<br />

participated during the <strong>2017</strong>/<strong>18</strong> school<br />

year ● 6 <strong>Early</strong> <strong>Connections</strong> locations<br />

plus 1 classroom in partnership with<br />

Iroquois Elementary School<br />

<strong>Early</strong> <strong>Connections</strong> Pre-K Counts<br />

students exploring the world at the<br />

Tom Ridge Environment Center<br />

Pop Pop’s Pantry<br />

Addressing food insecurity -<br />

Nutrition assistance<br />

Provides supplemental meals for low income families unable to<br />

access pantries that are open during work hours ● 171 bags of food<br />

distributed ● Available to all eligible City Center families ● In<br />

partnership with Second Harvest Food Bank<br />

Community Innovation<br />

Zone (CIZ)<br />

Supported Playgroups (SPGs)<br />

for families and caregivers<br />

Families enjoying a Supported Playgroup<br />

field trip to the Erie Zoo<br />

Participants learn to be their child’s first teacher ● Developmentally<br />

appropriate activities to promote readiness for success in school ●<br />

Provide a better understanding of school procedures and expectations<br />

● Resources and referrals ● Opportunity to network ● Supported an<br />

early learning symposium spearheaded by the Union City Family<br />

Support Center to highlight the importance of collaboration between<br />

school and service agencies beginning prenatally through grade three<br />

● 3 year grant funded through PA’s Race To the Top <strong>Early</strong> Learning<br />

Challenge Program, administered by <strong>Early</strong> <strong>Connections</strong> with United<br />

Way as the lead agency ● Partners included the Iroquois School<br />

District, the International<br />

Institute, YMCA of Greater<br />

Erie, and the Union City<br />

Family Support Center<br />

● Activities included<br />

visiting the Children’s<br />

Museum in Erie, the<br />

Pittsburgh Museum, and<br />

the Erie Zoo<br />

Supported Playgroups provide families<br />

with a fun environment to learn together.<br />

Family Support<br />

Engaging families in their<br />

children's learning<br />

Able to serve 20 children and their families at a time ● Quality<br />

early learning, before and after school care ● Activities for the<br />

entire family ● Infant through school-age, on a full-time basis<br />

● Funded through a contract with Erie County Department of<br />

Human Services (DHS)

Erie's Future Fund<br />

Preschool Scholarship program<br />

administered by <strong>Early</strong> <strong>Connections</strong><br />

for economically-challenged<br />

families throughout Erie County<br />

Look at what we built! All the while we were<br />

learning about problem solving, cooperation,<br />

math, creativity and so much more.<br />

150 scholarship opportunities for qualified<br />

children from low-income families<br />

● Scholarships accepted at 40+ highquality<br />

early care and education program locations in Erie<br />

County ● Part-time summer scholarships offered for up to 50<br />

scholars over an 11 week period ● Scholarship options: 3 or 5<br />

half days a week during the school year ● Open enrollment<br />

deadline allows families to access the program beyond the start<br />

of the school year ● Provide educational resources and support<br />

during the application process ● Scholarships are funded from<br />

within Erie County through individual<br />

donations, Pre-K Earned Income<br />

Tax Credits, and cause-related<br />

marketing<br />

Erie’s Future Fund was created in 2011,<br />

an outgrowth of the Erie Community<br />

Foundation’s <strong>Early</strong> Childhood Advisory<br />

Panel in partnership with United Way of<br />

Erie County, Success By 6, members of the<br />

<strong>Early</strong> Learning Investment Commission<br />

and Erie Together.<br />

United Way Success By 6<br />

(SB6)<br />

Success By 6, United Way of Erie<br />

County's <strong>Early</strong> Care and Education<br />

initiative, is a community<br />

collaborative of professionals from a<br />

wide range of organizations.<br />

Sack races! Just one of the many fun activities to try during the 9th<br />

annual Pre-K Counts Awareness Day event<br />

Celebrated 15 years serving the Erie Community and helping prepare their children for Kindergarten ● Focuses<br />

on the needs of young children and their families through the work of several SB6 committees: Maternal Child<br />

Health Task Force, Erie County <strong>Early</strong> Learning Professionals, and Pre-K Counts, as well as in partnership with the<br />

Erie County Local Inter-agency Coordinating Council ● 12th <strong>Annual</strong> Success By 6 <strong>Early</strong> Learning Expo: 65<br />

families including 112 children, 35 local agency exhibits, hands-on activities, live entertainment, and educational<br />

materials. Each child received a book courtesy of Hooked On Books for Kids Erie ● 9th <strong>Annual</strong> Pre-K Counts<br />

Awareness Day: 700 preschoolers and their teachers from Erie County Pre-K Counts programs took part in a<br />

variety of educational activities and games at the Tom Ridge Environmental Center<br />

● Children Do Come with Directions booklets: 5000+ booklets have been distributed<br />

in the past 2 years. We plan to update the booklet for reprinting in 2019.<br />

United Way<br />

Erie Free Taxes<br />

Free tax preparation services through the<br />

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance<br />

Program (VITA) to assist eligible low and<br />

moderate income wage-earners to claim<br />

the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).<br />

Free tax preparation service provided by IRS-certified volunteers<br />

at numerous locations throughout Erie County<br />

20<strong>18</strong> FILING SEASON RESULTS<br />

● Federal VITA Returns: 6,248<br />

● Claims (incl in above total): 2,136<br />

● Returns: 616<br />

● Total Returns: 6,864<br />

● Refund Total: $10.9M<br />

● Tax Filer Savings (est.): $1.8M

Contributors<br />

Quite simply, our work would not be possible without the support of the community. The following individuals<br />

and organizations made contributions to support the work of <strong>Early</strong> <strong>Connections</strong>. Each gift directly and positively<br />

affected a child’s life. Thank you!<br />

4 N.I.N.E.<br />

American Legion Post 237<br />

Bayhurst Family Trust<br />

Boscov's<br />

Britton Family Foundation<br />

Campbell Pottery Store<br />

Chipotle Mexican Grill<br />

Darlene Kovacs<br />

Dr. Paul and Darlene Kovacs<br />

East Erie Moose Family Center<br />

Erie Community Foundation<br />

Erie Community Foundation - Erie Gives Day<br />

Erie Experience Vinyl<br />

Erie Insurance<br />


Fire Pitt Pizza Erie<br />

Greater Giving Online<br />

Holly Platte<br />

Hooked on Books<br />

Jacqueline Catrabone<br />

Jamie Schumacher<br />

Jessen Media<br />

JJHT, Inc.<br />

John Krol VFW Post 6773<br />

John W. Alberstadt Jr.<br />

Joseph and Brenda Comstock<br />

Katie Jones<br />

Erie's Future Fund<br />

Preschool Scholarship Fund<br />

administered by <strong>Early</strong> <strong>Connections</strong><br />

American Tinning and Galvanizing<br />

CA Curtze Company<br />

Erie Community Foundation-Erie Gives Day<br />

Erie Insurance<br />


JAM PHD Inc.<br />

Lilly Broadcasting of PA LLC<br />

Math-U-See dba Demme Learning<br />

Scott's Corp. Services Inc.<br />

Scott's Development Company<br />

UPMC Health Plan<br />

We have made every effort to list all<br />

grants, contributions and gifts<br />

received during the period July 1,<br />

<strong>2017</strong> through June 30, 20<strong>18</strong>. We<br />

apologize for any errors or omissions<br />

and ask you to contact <strong>Early</strong><br />

<strong>Connections</strong> Administrative Offices<br />

at 814-874-0144 with corrections.<br />

Kiwanis Club of Erie<br />

La Nuova Aurora Society of Erie, PA<br />

Larry Lechtner<br />

Lori Hetrick<br />

Maria's Pizza<br />

Mayer Bro. Construction<br />

Michael and LeeAnn Thomas<br />

Michael Plazony<br />

Michelle Harkins<br />

MnM Treasures<br />

Plazony Family Foundation<br />

Presque Isle Downs and Casino<br />

Sarah Howard<br />

Sean and Kimberly Beers<br />

South Erie Turners<br />

Stan Zlotkowski III<br />

State Representative Flo and Vicki Fabrizio<br />

State Representative Pat and Michelle Harkins<br />

Sunflower Club<br />

Times Publishing Company<br />

Tracy Robison Chandler<br />

UPMC Health Plan<br />

Vicary Insurance Agency<br />

Victoria Fabrizio<br />

WM T. Spaeder Co.<br />

Z3 Concepts<br />

Neighborhood Assistance Program<br />

Through the Department of Community and Economic<br />

Development’s Neighborhood Assistance Program, UPMC<br />

Health Plan received tax credits for their gift to <strong>Early</strong><br />

<strong>Connections</strong>, which helped purchase The Creative Curriculum<br />

for infants, toddlers and preschool. This high-quality<br />

curriculum for now readily accessible to every <strong>Early</strong><br />

<strong>Connections</strong> classroom.<br />

Jennifer Weigold-Geertson, Senior Manager of Community Relations at UPMC<br />

Health Plan (center of photo in green) and the <strong>Early</strong> <strong>Connections</strong> staff at our<br />

training on the use of The Creative Curriculum in our classrooms<br />

Erie Downtown Partnership<br />

<strong>Early</strong> <strong>Connections</strong> was one of the downtown businesses that<br />

proudly received a $2,595 Façade Improvement Grant from<br />

the Erie Downtown Partnership. This grant will help provide<br />

the funds needed to replace the windows on the State Street<br />

side of our City Center location, 704 State Street. An additional<br />

grant helped provide security cameras at this location.

Fiscal <strong>Report</strong> July <strong>2017</strong>-June 20<strong>18</strong><br />

Accredited Under the Pennsylvania Association<br />

Nonprofit Organizations’ Standards for Excellence®<br />

<strong>Early</strong> <strong>Connections</strong> is a 501(c)3 nonprofit<br />

organization -contributions to which are<br />

tax deductible to the fullest extent<br />

permitted by law. The official<br />

registration and financial information of<br />

<strong>Early</strong> <strong>Connections</strong> may be obtained from<br />

the Pennsylvania Department of State by<br />

calling toll-free, within Pennsylvania,<br />

1-800-732-0999. Registration does not<br />

imply endorsement.<br />

<strong>Early</strong> <strong>Connections</strong> is proud to be able to display this<br />

Seal of Excellence awarded by the Pennsylvania<br />

Association of Nonprofit Organizations. <strong>Early</strong><br />

<strong>Connections</strong> is one of two nonprofit organizations<br />

in this region to be awarded accreditation under the<br />

Standards for Excellence® program, which is<br />

bestowed only to the most well-managed and<br />

responsibly governed nonprofit organizations that<br />

have demonstrated continued compliance with 56<br />

specific Standards for Excellence® based on<br />

honesty, integrity, fairness, respect, trust, responsibility,<br />

and accountability. <strong>Early</strong> <strong>Connections</strong> has<br />

met, complied with, and integrated the Standards<br />

for Excellence® into all its activities to successfully<br />

complete this voluntary accreditation program.

<strong>Early</strong> <strong>Connections</strong><br />

City Center<br />

704 State Street<br />

Erie, PA 16501<br />

(814) 456-4576<br />

<strong>Early</strong> <strong>Connections</strong><br />

West Side<br />

420 West 6th Street<br />

Erie, PA 16507<br />

(814) 456-5346<br />

<strong>Early</strong> <strong>Connections</strong><br />

Harbor Homes<br />

<strong>18</strong>41 East <strong>18</strong>th Street<br />

Erie, PA 16510<br />

(814) 899-3310<br />

<strong>Early</strong> <strong>Connections</strong><br />

John E Horan Garden Apartments<br />

730 Tacoma Road<br />

Erie, PA 16511<br />

(814) 454-9713<br />

<strong>Early</strong> <strong>Connections</strong><br />

North East<br />

50 E Division Street<br />

North East, PA 16428<br />

(814) 315-2915<br />

<strong>Early</strong> <strong>Connections</strong><br />

Union City<br />

16380 Route 8<br />

Union City, PA 16438<br />

(814) 438-7016<br />

www.earlyconnectionserie.org<br />


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