St. Louis-based childhood development nonprofit receives $7 million gift from billionaire
A St. Louis-based early childhood development nonprofit has received a $7 million gift from billionaire philanthropist MacKenzie Scott, the largest donation ever for the organization.
Parents as Teachers provides families with education specialists who help with children with early developmental activities.
The nonprofit’s leaders said the unrestricted funds could help them offer better programming, train staff and improve its technology. Its board is still planning how to use the significant donation.
“We plan to take our time and make sure that we maximize this opportunity to benefit as many families and then bring the innovations that families need to thrive,” Constance Gully, the nonprofit’s president and CEO.
She said the organization wants to continue working with experts, parents and community members to better serve its clients.
Parents as Teachers serves over 200,000 families across the nation and over 300 families in the St. Louis region through home visits with trained professionals in child development, health and learning. The organization also provides child health and developmental screenings.
“One of the things that we're over the moon excited about is the fact that this gift is an affirmation of what we've been doing for the past four decades,” Gully said. “So deepening and demonstrating the impact of our work from the perspective of those added values and insights that families bring will inform the research that we do here and beyond and this resource will help with that.”
St. Louisan Azahré Zimbalis heard about Parents as Teachers through a housing agency for young mothers a few years ago. Her parent-educator taught her about early intervention for childhood learning disabilities, gentle parenting and child development behaviors.
Zimbalis, 27, said she appreciates her parent-educator who has helped her manage educating her four children, including her infant.
“I'm really good with educating my kids and knowing what to do and what not to do, but when coming to Parents as Teachers, they were just able to back me up on what I knew,” she said.
Zimbalis’ parent-educator Aviva Page also helped her recover after her last pregnancy.
“As a parent-educator we offer a lot of resources, but a lot of the times, parents feel overwhelmed and nobody is very honest about the trials and tribulations of parenthood,” Page said. “They need help with understanding child development or understanding what's appropriate at what age.”
The organization is developing a mobile app to make early childhood development resources available to families to help support them when trained professionals are not available.
Zimbalis is excited that the organization received such a large gift and hopes the funds could be used for needs beyond early childhood development, as well.
“Maybe like a resource fair … maybe even helping a few families with rental assistance, or just those different things that we struggle with,” she said. “It's hard right now, so a lot of families need that extra help.”