HUGE Idea Grants Now Being Accepted

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The Fayette County Foundation has never lacked a myriad of ideas through the years to try to better the local community.

Starting this month, however, its latest idea might be its biggest, or as they have termed it, most “huge” idea of them all.

Starting June 5, the FCF will be accepting applications for its “The Big Huge Idea” grant, which would offer $50,000 to a selected organization with an emphasis on early childhood development programming.

As has been evidenced over the past couple of years, with its “Jump Start” kindergarten readiness program and its efforts with local pre-schools, the FCF has made early childhood development a main focus of its efforts. Those efforts, though, don’t address a gap in early childhood development which is currently lacking in Fayette County – the gap between birth and the latter stages of early childhood development.

“The Huge Idea is, we’re looking for early childhood development programming,” said Katherine Good, program officer for the FCF. “We’re looking for a partner to help us start filling the gap in services. So we’re looking for infants all the way up to the kids who haven’t hit kindergarten yet. We’re not looking for a daycare, we’re not looking for a pre-school. We’re looking for a comprehensive early childhood organization.

“We want to see things that provide social and emotional development, intellectual development, language development, parent resources, parent support, Mommy and Me classes, all the way down to the little babies,” she continued.

Indeed, in the eyes of the FCF, the children of the community are truly its future, in more ways that one, and an investment in their development needs to be made.

“The Foundation, we’ve just been really pushing the early childhood and the reason for that is we get a lot of research sent to us, that shows in investing in early childhood is our best shot at improving quality of life, improving our community, breaking the poverty cycle, preventing drug abuse, preventing all the crimes that come as a result of those cultures,” Good commented. “It’s economic development, investing in these little, tiny citizens. And it fits our mission. Our mission is to promote positive, sustainable change, and that’s where we want to start.”

While the FCF already has some programs, such as “Jump Start” – its partnership with the Fayette County School Corporation which provides kindergarten readiness for incoming kindergarten students – it’s time to make a fuller investment.

“We really need to take it to the next level,” she said. “We need to find the right partnership to start something like this.”

The $50,000 grant amount is among one of the largest amounts, in recent memory, the FCF is offering as well.

“It’s a lot of money,” according to Good. “We hope that would go pretty far.”

Not only will the grant application process be open to existing organizations, both within the county and outside it, it is also open to those who have potentially thought of becoming involved and leading such an effort, but have never had the financial resources to do so.

“It seems like such a big thing that I want people to start a conversation with us. We want them to fill out their proposal, but I don’t want people to be intimidated because all their ducks are not in a row. We can work on it together. This would be a partnership between their organization and the Foundation,” Good said. “If there is a successful organization operating (outside Fayette County), they would have to have a physical location here for us to fund them. That money would have to be used just in Fayette County.

“There are a couple of places we’re going to reach out to personally, that are already operating, to see if they could bring services into Fayette County,” she continued. “But I don’t know if there’s somebody out there, who shares this same opinion, who’s just saying ‘If I had the money. If I just had the money, I’m willing to be this director.’ We just don’t know who’s out there and that’s what we’re hoping to find. Who’s out there, motivated and who sees this as a priority?”

The effort would encompass areas such as parent education, early childhood development ranging from simple “tummy time” to reading to young children, play groups and other aspects. It would also look to see how some of the already positive assets of the community – its library, Roberts Park, the FCSC, children’s services and the like – could be incorporated.

“How can we kind of bring that stuff together and enhance it,” Good said. “Children need the best start they can get.”

And if those children get off to a great start, it will in turn better the community.

“That’s where everybody talks about improving the community,” she said. “I think that’s where it starts.”