June 2020 Newsletter

The 2019-2020 school year has officially ended, and summer has arrived for our children and families.

Our staff continues to work diligently each and every day thanks to the support of our community, and we are excited to share our June newsletter with you, where we celebrate our Kindergarten-risers, student scholar athletes,
fatherhood , and more.

As Children First serves on the front lines, we know 
our critical work could not continue without you.
Thank you for always being there for our families.
Mission Moment: Celebrating Kindergarten Readiness
Children First sites across the county celebrated our children heading to Kindergarten in the fall with drive-thru "graduations!" We wish our 167 graduates a happy, healthy, and confident start to their Kindergarten Year! 
Our long-time partnership with The Zenith allowed us to provide every child with a backpack full of educational books, games, and activities as well as supplies to start off the new school year in the fall. Thank you to The Zenith for making this
special opportunity possible!

Although it was not the typical celebration filled with hugs, dancing, and sharing of gifts, there were plenty of smiles and lots of laughter to go around . We are thankful for our children, families, staff, and supporters who have helped us reach this momentous occasion, especially in the face of

Congratulations K-Risers!
Strengthening Children and Families
Since March 16th, Children First has been working with community partners to maintain its crucial services.

In partnership with All Faith's Food Bank, the Boys & Girls Club, Girls Inc., and the Sarasota Housing Authority, 793 supplemental food/care kits have been distributed.

Additionally, our families have received diapers and wipes, car seats, infant formula, hygiene and paper products, face masks, and financial assistance.

Although 108 parents have either lost jobs or suffered from reduced hours, 29 parents either have returned to work or started new jobs with the help of their Family Advocates.     

All of our children continued to receive virtual classroom support as well as at-home educational kits through the end of the school year. In the transition from the end of the academic 2019-2020 school year and the official start of summer services on June 2, all children with diagnosed disabilities and their families have received continuous services and support .
Educational Statistics, March 16 - May 31, 2020:

  • More than 2,900 phone calls made from Program staff to parents
  • Over 2,200 emails sent to families with information and resources
  • 90+ educational videos created
  • Countless hours spent by staff preparing thousands of learning kits and at-home activities

On Monday, June 8th, Children First resumed virtual services to all of our Early Head Start infants and toddlers (birth to age 3) and began serving 78 Head Start learners (ages 3 to 5) who were identified as most in need.

Our agency's Health and Safety Committee, alongside the Leadership Team, Policy Council, and Board of Directors, have created a comprehensive plan in preparation for re-opening our doors for on-site services, and all staff are working diligently to provide resources for families during the  summer months.

Children First remains committed to serving its children and families with the highest standard of safety, compassion, excellence, and transparency possible. On-site services will not resume until all protocols have been reviewed and approved by the Board of Directors and Sarasota County Health Department, in compliance with CDC standards.  
Celebrating Alumni Success
Children First was thrilled to support the Herald-Tribune's Best of HT Preps virtual event on June 18 as its exclusive Non-Profit Sponsor!  

Children First graduate O'Mariah Gordon was named the HT Preps 2020 Female Basketball Athlete of the Year for Sarasota County , an honor she earned in 2019 as well!
O’Mariah is just as successful and hard at work in the classroom, holding a weighted 3.77 GPA!

In March, O’Mariah was also named the 2020 Gatorade Florida Girls Basketball Player of the Year for the second year in a row!

O'Mariah is also the 2020 Florida Dairy Farmers 6-A Player of the Year and was named to the USA Today Florida 1 st team in 2019 . She is currently being recruited by some of the top Division 1 schools in the nation.

With a commitment to creating pathways to opportunity since 1961, Children First congratulates O'Mariah and all of the 2020 HT Preps All Star Student Athletes!

O’Mariah is a true inspiration on and off the court. Read more here!
Celebrating Fatherhood
"A man never stands as tall as when 
he kneels to help a child."

We hope that all of the fathers out there
enjoyed their special day!
Eliezer Rivera (left) , a 3-time "Dad Grad," Policy Council member, and Children First parent credits the Families First Institute (FFI) and his strong bond with FFI Manager Jack Baker (right) for his own family's success.

"The entire program gives you specific things that you can do at home and with your kids to make sure that they are on the right path . Children First is more like a family. They make you feel like a family , not only for parents, but children too. It's more than a child care center, it is a family care center ."
Click here to listen to Jack Baker's interview with the Nurturing Fathers Program! You can learn important things to consider as a father while spending more time at home during the coronavirus pandemic.
WEDU PBS 2019 Be More Inspired Special
Learn more about the Nurturing Dads Initiative from FFI Manager Jack Baker and 'Dad Grad' Eric Babb in their 2019 interview with Dalia Colon.
Jack Baker congratulates
a 'Dad Grad'
Our Community Cares
Children First Staff Member and Head Start Mom Isabel with Sarah Lodge of the Rotary Club of Sarasota

We would like to highlight and thank some of our community partners who have enabled Children First to continue advancing our mission each day, providing direct support  to those who need help the most. 

  • McCune Family Foundation - $50,000 for scholarship support
  • Since 2017, the McCune Family Foundation has granted $180,000 to Children First! Their generosity has supported our Raise Your Hand Campaign and our comprehensive services for children and families. Thank you!
  • DG ACE Hardware - $10,000 for general support
  • Special thank you to the Schaefer family for their incredible support!
  • Sarasota Kiwanis Foundation - $2,000 for scholarship support
  • Catalist Realty - $1,408 for general support
  • Special thank you to realtor Manda Jordan and broker David Crawford for donating a percentage of their commission to Children First!
  • Rotary Club of Sarasota - donation of 85 books for Head Start classrooms
Volunteers in (Remote) Action
Thank you to all who have shared and continue to share
your creativity with us - from quilting, to making videos about cooking, story time, song and dance, yoga, and everything in between. We are so grateful for our volunteers!
Make sure to check out our YouTube channel for the latest, fun videos like this one from volunteer Makenna on how to make 'bear toast!'
Florida Winefest & Auction, Inc. made two donations to our agency totaling more than 1,000 face masks! Board Member Trey Desenberg has been working hard to donate masks all across the county, and was assisted by Children First staff in continuing to bag masks for distribution to others in need.

Also donated were Instant Pots to disinfect the face masks after use by staff members.

Thank you Florida Winefest & Auction, Inc. for your generosity and commitment to our community!
1723 N. Orange Ave.
Sarasota, FL 34234
Phone: (941) 953-3877

Our Mission:
To strengthen children and families
by improving the quality of their lives
through a comprehensive approach to
development, education, health, and well-being.

Children First is Sarasota County's
exclusive provider of Head Start
and Early Head Start services.