Ready to Grow St. Joe, an Early Childhood Coalition in St. Joseph County, Indiana, will become an initiative of the United Way of St. Joseph County effective March 1, 2019. The program is currently housed with Early Childhood Alliance, a Child Care Resource and Referral agency serving St. Joseph and nine other regional counties, based out of Fort Wayne. Early Childhood Alliance (ECA) stepped forward in 2016 to provide backbone support as fiscal agent of the program, a critical component of Collective Impact initiatives like Ready to Grow.
Beyond acting as fiscal agent to Ready to Grow, ECA has been an active, collaborative partner across work groups and projects since the coalition’s beginning and will continue to serve in these capacities moving forward. Shannon Gage, Program Director of Early Childhood Alliance will continue to serve as a member of the Ready to Grow Advisory Council. “ECA looks forward to continuing our community engagement across the county and working with Ready to Grow partners to move forward in building better futures for children.”
Emily Rupchock, Director of Ready to Grow, says, “Ready to Grow is committed to building a network of support that connects local families with the resources they need most, and United Way has been another critical part of our work from its earliest days five years ago.” After a few years to gain community consensus across the coalition, United Way provided seed funding to support paid leadership in 2016 and has continued as a lead funder since. In addition to supporting through funding, United Way has provided office and meeting space for Ready to Grow for nearly two years, as well as serving on the Advisory Council. “It’s a natural transition, given the history and opportunity for partnership,” says Rupchock. “Funders are expressing interest in seeing funding managed locally, and United Way has the capacity to serve in this role.”
Laura Jensen, President and CEO of United Way of St. Joseph County is excited about the formal agreement, though does not expect much to change day-to-day. “United Way has a strong history of supporting Collective Impact initiatives like Ready to Grow and the topic could not align any better with our focus on Early Learning,” says Jensen. “We will continue to support Ready to Grow, as we have since its beginning—the role we play will simply look a little different.”
“We have a lot of work to do—and this work is just as much our focus now as it always has been,” says Rupchock. “I’m incredibly grateful for the ongoing support of ECA and look forward to our partnership as we move into the future. This partnership is a wonderful example of the collaborative spirit needed to effectively build a comprehensive system of support for the young children and families in our community.”