Growing Business. Building Community.

Consumers Energy Foundation Bolsters 5toONE Support

An early childhood development network that continues to expand across the 5-county region received another major boost from the Consumers Energy Foundation.

Carolyn Bloodworth of the Consumers Energy Foundation presented the Great Start Collaborative Traverse Bay a $50,000 check today to support continued implementation of its 5toONE early childhood development project in Northwest Michigan. It’s the third grant in a three-year commitment to support the local 5toONE initiative, and was presented to local representatives and families at the 5toONE Neighborhood Center temporarily located at Incredible Mo’s in Grawn.

“The ongoing support from the Consumers Energy Foundation is helping us to continue expanding in the 5-county region and serve more of our region’s children and families,” said Mary Manner, coordinator of the Great Start Collaborative Traverse Bay.

5toONE was created to increase family participation in programs and services that improve early childhood outcomes in our 5-county region of rural northwest lower Michigan. The Great Start Collaborative Traverse Bay initiated the project in response to data that showed nearly half our five-year-olds were not ready for kindergarten, that families were unaware of support services and confused about where to find help, and that our service provider network was poorly connected. Consumers Energy Foundation has been the major supporting business partner of the 5toONE project, contributing over $200,000 since 2014 to support both the final design of the 5toONE model and the three-year implementation period which concludes in October, 2017.

Parents including Tammy Walsh of Traverse City said the Neighborhood Centers are important to her family, which includes three young children. The children can enjoy physical activity, team-building exercises, learn coordination skills, have reading time and are able to learn social skills with other children within the playgroup.

Plus, it offers adults an opportunity to utilize 5toONE resources in areas of parenting skills and related topics that help them as well, as well as swap clothes, toys and other children’s items.

“It’s a lot of things you wouldn’t know if you are just home with your kids,” Walsh said.

Bloodworth said it’s gratifying to see the support from the Consumers Energy Foundation being used to significantly expand the 5toONE initiative. In early 2015, Consumers Energy also made a $50,000 grant to assist with the early implementation of 5toONE, which opened its first Neighborhood Center in the village of Lake Ann in Benzie County. The Consumers Energy Foundation contributed another grant in 2016, and its support has helped create seven 5toONE Neighborhood Centers operating in Lake Ann, Kalkaska, Thompsonville, Interlochen, Grawn, Greilickville and Benzonia. More neighborhood centers are in the planning stages.

“It’s so great to see the growth of the program throughout the community,” Bloodworth said. “It’s really been wonderful to watch.”

The 5toONE model has also gained the attention of the international business community, as it received the 2015 Regional Innovation Award from the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives (ACCE).

“The Consumers Energy Foundation has been a major supporting partner in the development and implementation of 5toONE and we are grateful for its continued support and generous funding,” Manner said.