First5 Rush County’s Early Learning Coalition

First5. Know early. Grow early.

What is Early Learning?

Early learning is educational programming outside the home for children between birth and 5 years old. It is a high-quality daycare experience. It’s not just babysitting. It’s an interactive experience for the child which includes stimulating activities such as reading, singing, talking and playing.

 

Why is Early Learning Important?

Did you know that 90% of brain development happens in those first five years? This is the most important time in life for determining future success.

These activities help children become ready for school and develop social and emotional skills. It also levels the playing field for low-income and disadvantaged children. With a focus on all aspects of a child’s well-being, early learning can help detect and address health issues early on.

Teens who receive quality early learning opportunities as toddlers are less likely to use alcohol and drugs, get pregnant or become involved in criminal activity. And they are more likely to graduate high school and continue their education.

Offering accessible and affordable early learning options supports parents’ employment. It lets them focus on their work and goals. This multi-generational approach creates a more economically stable situation for the entire family and can also help break the cycle of poverty. It reduces both absenteeism and stress.

Businesses benefit from a stable workforce, as well as from having a future generation of educated, work-ready employees. Early childhood learning is a sound investment from a community’s economic standpoint.

 

History of First5 Rush County’s Early Learning Coalition

The primary focus of RCCF’s grantmaking has always been to meet the most urgent needs of Rush County while serving the greatest number of residents. Usually, we look to the organizations doing the work in the community to tell us what they need.

In 2018, with unrestricted dollars available, we took a different approach. A committee studied the greatest issues facing our community to determine a course of action that would make the most meaningful impact.

All signs pointed to early learning.

RCCF made its first proactive grant to fund First5 Rush County’s Early Learning Coalition. We understood its importance but also knew we needed expert advice. We contracted with Huffer Childcare Center in Muncie. They hired Jeri McCorkle, who has 20+ years of experience in education, to lead First5 and to help guide her work.

Jeri began by collecting data and input from the Rush County community. Those findings revealed that her focus should include increasing the quality and capacity of childcare in the county. Understanding that knowledge is power, she began flooding the community with the “read, sing, talk, play, model” message in the form of posters and presentations.

First5 began transitioning away from Huffer in 2019 to become an independent program. The Children’s Bureau of Indiana has become a valued partner and resource. Jeri continued to emphasize First5’s mission of health & wellness, parenting engagement & family fun, and parenting support.

The RCCF board of directors decided that First5 would become a program under the Foundation beginning in 2021. Shortly after, the First5 Fund was established to provide financial support.

 

First5’s Work

  • Communicates with the public, stressing the importance of early learning and taking a multi-generational approach to meet the needs of the entire family. Helps others understand the connection between early learning and overall community health.
  • Focuses on all types of health for babies, toddlers and mothers. Currently working to establish a local program to support new moms with in-home visits.
  •  Acts as a connector for other organizations that serve young children and their families, such as Rush 2 Health and Rush Memorial Hospital. Convenes monthly meetings with program staff and others interested in early learning.
  • Serves as a resource for people wanting to become childcare providers, helping them provide a high-quality, safe experience for children.
  • Oversees the “From the Bottom Up Diaper Pantry”. Diapers are available to anyone with an infant or toddler in their life, during operating hours of local food and clothing pantries.

from the bottom up diaper pantry

Packs of 15 diapers, wipes, a children’s book and resources available at:

    • Carthage Community Church Clothing Closet (511 E 2nd St, Carthage, IN 46115)
      • 2nd Tuesday of the month | 9am-2pm, 4-7pm
      • 2nd Thursday of the month | 9am-2pm, 4-7pm
    • Milroy Food Pantry (300 N Walnut St, Milroy, IN 46156)
      • 1st Saturday of the month | 10am-12pm
      • 3rd Monday of the month | 5-7pm
    • Rush County Community Assistance Food Pantry (109 E 3rd St, Rushville, IN 46173)
      • Tuesdays | 10am-1pm
      • Thursdays | 10am-1pm
    • Rushville Commodities (Fairgrounds????)
      • 4th Monday of the month | 11:30am-1pm
    • Rushville Main Street Church Clothing Closet (615 N Main St, Rushville, IN 46173)
      • Tuesdays | 6:30-8:30pm

 

How You Can Help

Contact Jeri McCorkle: jeri@rushelc.org | phone?

  • Spread the message about the importance of providing babies and toddlers with activities to stimulate and engage them using the “read, sing, talk, play, model” message.
  • Encourage those with young children in their lives to sign up for the free Ready4K text program to receive helpful age-specific activities and information. Text F5RC to 70138.
  • Hold a diaper drive for the pantry and spread the word to those in need.
  • Make a donation to the First5 Fund to support the work. DONATE
  • Follow First5 on social media: Facebook | Instagram

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