First5 Update: Growing Minds and Impact with a $100,000 Grant

RCCF’s board of directors sees the continued value in supporting First5 Rush County’s Early Learning Coalition and has approved funding for the initiative’s fourth year. Early Learning Indiana (ELI) has made quite a sizeable investment, too.


The statewide organization has awarded First5 a $100,000 grant to increase capacity and quality and ensure affordability and choice for families. According to ELI’s recent report taking each of these measures into consideration, the statewide capacity is to serve children ages 0 to 5 who many need care is just 61%.  In Rush County, that drops to just 31%, the fourth lowest in the state.


To address the needs of the community, this grant will create 15 more openings for infants and toddlers to receive high-quality early learning opportunities in Rush County. The funds will cover costs for personnel, construction of two new classrooms, curricula and supplies.


Jeri McCorkle, First5 Director, noted, “With this investment we are taking what is already working and building on it by expanding current high-quality programs and utilizing the strengths of some of the excellent providers we already have. Our team will also be providing mentoring to new and growing programs. We are providing community education to businesses and families. By building on what’s already working for us, this community-based solution addresses economic development, health, education and social services. We are Closing the Gap between what we have and what we know is possible.”


“Four years of focused efforts on Rush County’s children and families has led us to this pivotal moment.  Rush County’s future is dependent on our work together today – and it is an absolute honor to be a part of a transformational investment in childcare quality and capacity,” said Alisa Winters, RCCF Executive Director. “The Rush County Community Foundation seeks to make the greatest impact with our discretionary grant dollars, and I can imagine no greater impact than the work Jeri and First5 have done for our community with our investment.”



First5 was born from RCCF’s first proactive grant in 2018, after a study of the community’s greatest needs pointed to the importance of investing in Rush County’s youngest residents.  First5 is a coalition devoted to increasing the community’s understanding of the importance of early learning.


Jeri, Alisa and a steering committee are in the process of developing a new strategic plan that promotes the importance and economic value of investing in Rush County’s youngest citizens. Their focus will be engaging providers, empowering families and educating the community.


The new strategic plan builds upon the foundational work of First5’s past three years, placing emphasis on the matters most fundamental to Rush County’s early learning landscape.  First5 has engaged with approximately 28 childcare providers in the county to date to offer essential resources of education and training, business strategies, literacy initiatives, and grant opportunities. First5 will support the increase in childcare capacity in Rush County to address the existing shortage. Jeri explains that high-quality early learning is much more than babysitting: it involves engaging children in stimulating activities such as reading, singing, talking and playing.


Did you know it costs $100/month to keep a child in diapers?! By eliminating stress and helping low-income families meet basic needs, the instances of abuse and neglect declines. First5 empowers families with a solution to fill this need – From the Bottom Up Diaper Pantry. Packs of diapers, wipes and a book are available at the county’s food pantries. In its first year, more than 17,000 diapers have been distributed. Shelby and Fayette Counties are looking to replicate this program. Information on signing up for the Rushville Public Library’s “1,000 Books Before Kindergarten program”, funded by RCCF’s CIRCLe Fund, is included in each pack.


The entire community plays a role in the health of our children.  First5 works to educate local organizations serving families on the importance of early learning as well as connecting one-on-one with caregivers and families during events like Willkie Days. Jeri also works with change-based organizations at a regional and state level to ensure that early learning interests are represented.


Early education is an issue that affects us all, even if we don’t have young children in our families. Giving children the best head start when it comes to learning creates a future well-prepared, stable workforce and an overall healthy community. If you’d like to support First5’s efforts, you can make a donation to the First5 Fund online or by mailing a check to: RCCF, 117 N. Main Street, Rushville, IN 46173. Donations of diapers and wipes are also accepted.


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