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Kresge, Kellogg and PNC foundations announce $2.5 million to bolster Detroit childcare facilities


The Kresge Foundation, W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF) and PNC Foundation today announced $2.5 million in joint grants to support improvements in early childhood education facilities in Detroit neighborhoods in an expansion of the three-year-old Learning Spaces program.

Children at Brainiacs Clubhouse Child Development Center
Brainiacs Clubhouse Child Development Center in Detroit (seen here and below) has received a grant for facilities improvements through IFF’s foundation-funded Learning Spaces program. Photographs courtesy of IFF

The announcement came at the annual Mackinac Policy Conference of the Detroit Chamber of Commerce as part of a panel on aligning early childhood and K-12 educational systems. The panel featured Kresge President Rip Rapson, PNC Regional President for Detroit and Southeast Michigan Ric DeVore, W.K. Kellogg Foundation President La June Montgomery Tabron and Detroit Public Schools Community District Superintendent Nikolai Vitti.

“We are all united in the belief that we can give Detroit children the education that meets their needs and provides the foundation for a more equitable city,” said Rapson. “That means both adequate resources for every level and working together to ensure that the early childhood sector understands the needs of K-12 and vice versa. Learning Spaces fills an enormous need for early childhood providers who want to upgrade their facilities to better serve children.”

“Extensive research indicates that the returns on investment in high-quality early education and school readiness initiatives are significant and long lasting – impacting our children, our society and the health of our economy,” said DeVore. “Today’s grants recognize that early childcare providers, who establish a foundation for learning, need support to become stronger businesses with improved facilities that provide safe, nurturing and intellectually stimulating environments for the earliest years.”

“Partnerships drive transformative change,” said Tabron. “This is the type of partnership we all envisioned, together, when we launched Hope Starts Here in 2017. With our collective support, we are putting Detroit’s young children and families first with improved access to safe and inspiring early learning environments. Quality early childhood education is critical to our children’s success.”

Children at Brainiacs Clubhouse Child Development Center

The Learning Spaces effort is part of Hope Starts Here, a citywide engagement process that has created a framework for coordinated, high-quality early childhood systems for Detroit children focusing on priorities like facilities quality and maternal and child health, among others. Kresge and WKKF joined together to launch Hope Starts Here in 2016 with a goal of making Detroit a city that puts its children first.

The new Learning Spaces grants support the nonprofit organization IFF. In 2015, Kresge backed an IFF pilot effort to help early childcare providers by covering the cost of real estate consulting assistance, minor repairs and other facility-related needs. Learning Spaces has since expanded through support from other foundations, including WKKF, which granted the organization $1.5 million last year for improvements to facilities to support brain development among attending children, decrease environmental hazards and stabilize enrollment.

WKKF’s additional $500,000 investment in Learning Spaces, announced Wednesday, continues its citywide efforts to target 10 to 12 high-quality, home-based and center-based licensed early childhood education providers operating across Detroit. In 2015, WKKF provided funding to IFF to create a facilities assessment and renovation program to address and increase quality in the near term for providers.

PNC’s $1 million grant will support IFF’s work in Detroit neighborhoods by improving the quality of early childhood education facilities, providing targeted technical assistance and addressing specific needs of providers who would like to offer extended or after-hours care. Funding will also help support strategic investments in the Brightmoor area, including home-based providers. PNC made the grant in support of PNC Grow Up Great, its bilingual $500 million, multiyear initiative to help prepare children from birth to age 5 for success in school and life.

Kresge’s $1 million will help fund work citywide, as well as specifically in the Livernois-McNichols area, where the foundation supports the comprehensive neighborhood developments efforts alongside the Live6 Alliance, an economic development organization.

“Efficient lighting, upgraded heating/cooling, better security, new playgrounds – these all contribute to high-quality facilities for young children to learn and grow,” said IFF Director of Early Childhood Education Monica Duncan. “But tackling facility repairs and renovations can be overwhelming for smaller providers that have few staff, small budgets, and little time to request grant funding. That’s why our Learning Spaces program is such a game-changer for providers who care about quality.”


IFF will take applications from both home-based and center-based care providers to improve the quality of their spaces, which may involve small repairs, larger upgrades or equipment purchases. Applicants can seek up to $50,000. (Learn more about applying at

Since 2016, IFF’s Learning Spaces program has invested $1.1 million in childcare facility improvements throughout the city – serving 1,525 children and creating 106 new slots in the process.

Kresge’s support for work in the Livernois-McNichols area also supplements the creation of a P-20 cradle-to-career campus at the site of Marygrove College. Partners in the P-20 campus – Starfish Family Services, Detroit Public Schools Community District, the University of Michigan and Marygrove College – seek to develop exceptional educational opportunities in the surrounding neighborhoods while ensuring that nearby early childhood providers have access to resources and technical assistance to improve the quality of their facilities.

The Learning Spaces program is part of all three foundations’ commitment to holistic community development strategies that are anchored by high-quality early childhood opportunities.

“Early childhood education providers in different parts of the city face diverse challenges,” IFF’s Duncan said. “This focused approach in specific geographies will allow us to develop communities of practice where early childhood providers can learn together and support each other.”