Evanston Community Foundation (ECF) is nearing completion of a major matching gift challenge to build its permanent endowment to $6 million for its Communityworks initiative “Every Child Ready for Kindergarten, Every Youth Ready for Work”

ECF believes the $6 million threshold will sustain its pilot program,”Every Child Ready for Kindergarten, Every Youth Ready for Work” (“Every Child”), and expand its model to a broader range of services that support early learning and kindergarten readiness.

Launched in 2007, ECF’s “Every Child” initiative focuses on providing crucial services and support to at-risk families with babies 0 to 36 months. The initiative is built upon cutting-edge academic research that links early learning experiences to kindergarten readiness and to future successes in school and life.

ECF’s opportunity to build its Communityworks endowment through a one-to-one match is provided by the Grand Victoria Foundation, which launched the development, implementation and endowment-building phases of the program in Evanston. In this final phase, Grand Victoria extended a $2 million dollar matching gift grant.

The “Every Child” project engages local agencies as partners in a learning network: the Infant Welfare Society of Evanston, School District 65’s Family Center, and The Child Care Center of Evanston. ECF’s grants expand the percentage of families receiving home visiting and support by one-third. Moreover, the home visiting and family support services at the heart of “Every Child” are supplemented by enrichment activities offered by the Family Room, Childcare Network of Evanston, and the Evanston Public Library, which are all Evanston-based organizations.

Currently, the pilot project supports home visits with 50 families a year, developmental screening for more than 400 children and educational drop-in sessions attended by more than 150 families. The program has had a 67 percent retention rate despite the recession’s effects on those most vulnerable to loss of jobs, housing, and subsidized services.

“Our goal is to level the playing field,” said Evanston Community Foundation President and CEO Sara Schastok. “This program not only reaches children at a crucial age in their development as learners, it also provides assistance to parents who struggle with a variety of life issues while also adjusting to parenthood with very few financial resources.”

“ECF extends its resources to the entire early childhood education community in Evanston. Whoever is engaged in family support services is encouraged to participate in our network,” said Marybeth Schroeder, ECF’s senior program officer.

ECF has raised more than $1.7 million toward this matching gift and is seeking ways to raise an additional $287,000 before Sept. 30.