First Things First

PCCF Receives $5 Million from Lilly Endowment for First Things First

The Porter County Community Porter County Community Foundation received its largest funding to date for First Things First Porter County (FTF)—a $5 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. to continue positively impacting the lives of Porter County children during their first 1,000 days. 

FTF will focus on four impact areas in the county: 

  • Help Me Grow (HMG) Porter County
  • Support for Porter County pediatricians 
  • Birth-to-school (B2S) programming
  • Collaboration Challenge grants

FTF will continue its support of HMG Porter County. HMG Porter County serves as a centralized access point for connecting caregivers of young children to community resources like developmental screenings, prenatal and postpartum care, parenting education, social support, housing and financial assistance. 

In collaboration with local pediatricians, early childhood specialists will be added to care teams to provide support for nurturing parenting. Associated Pediatricians LLC, the pediatric practice caring for the most children in Porter County, will pilot the project, with additional primary healthcare providers joining in the future. Incorporating an early childhood specialist with expertise in developmental milestones, parenting and infant and toddler mental health improves children’s healthy development, well-being and relational health where they are most likely to be—the pediatric primary care office.

Birth-to-School programming works toward a seamless transition into the formal school environment with more children prepared for kindergarten by addressing barriers that inhibit access to parenting education and quality early experiences. Support for the Duneland School Corporation’s Early Learning Center will improve accommodations for children with special needs and comply with childcare licensing and quality rating guidelines to integrate multiple early learning programs into the space. Additionally, an alliance of Porter County B2S programs will be formally convened to increase similar programs across the county.

The Collaboration Challenge grants, grants to local organizations that incentivize partnerships and catalyze projects aligning with FTF’s goals, will be increased to offer additional investment and funding for more organizations.

Bill Higbie, president and CEO of the Porter County Community Foundation, acknowledged this transformational gift, “This opportunity to serve our youngest children and their families is unprecedented, allowing us to invest in proven programs and promising practices that will lead to significant, lasting improvements in our community.”  

“We are grateful to Lilly Endowment for recognizing the vision of Porter County leaders to provide for our littlest ones and their families. With every dollar, we nurture a brighter future for our babies and toddlers, cultivating a community of care, compassion and endless possibilities,” said Mary Jane Eisenhauer, Executive Director of First Things First Porter County. 

In Porter County, a shift in population demographics, inequitable access to services, rising costs of living, uneven health and wellness outcomes and risk factors related to developmental delays challenge the support for families during the first 1,000 days of a child’s life. The FTF Early Education And Relationships Last for Years (E.A.R.L.Y.) impact plan aims to increase collaborative projects that strengthen the prenatal to age three network in Porter County, support innovative solutions by augmenting existing resources, elevating proven models and reinforcing a structure to activate a culture shift in the county to prioritize early relational health of parents and their children.

About First Things First Porter County

Because early childhood development affects every aspect of our community, the Porter County Community Foundation launched FTF in 2021 to strengthen, sustain and nurture partnerships to promote healthy beginnings, family support and quality early experiences. FTF catalyzes community partners to create a thriving ecosystem of care and support ensuring every baby born in Porter County has a strong start to life. FTF brings together organizations, providers and individuals across the county working to mitigate families’ challenges when they welcome a baby home. For more information, please visit or find us on Facebook.

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