Women United grants $166,000 for early education

Women United of Lake County announced they are awarding $166,000 this year through their Little Kids, Big Futures philanthropy fund to support eight critical early education programs.

Since 2014, Women United has granted $850,000 to worthy nonprofits that ensure children living in Lake County's most vulnerable communities are prepared for kindergarten and ready to succeed.

The following programs will receive funding:

• $65,000: United Way of Lake County's Kindergarten Countdown Camp to support a virtual and hybrid summer learning program for 120 incoming kindergartners in Beach Park, Round Lake and Waukegan with little to no preschool experience. In addition to teaching social classroom norms, the goal is to build key foundational skills such as learning shapes, letters, counting and name writing.

• $25,000: B.E.S.T. Pre-K Program to allow the Round Lake Park District program to continue to provide 20 scholarships for children who otherwise would not have access to preschool. With this opportunity, children will be prepared for kindergarten and ready to learn.

• $20,000: One Hope United's Busy Bee Children's Center to provide scholarships to low-income families in Beach Park, North Chicago, Park City, Waukegan, and Zion who need full-time child care while parents work or are in school. The research-based curriculum focuses on learning through exploration and discovery to build critical thinking, early learning skills, and the confidence needed to succeed in school.

• $16,000: Mano a Mano's Healthy Kids/Healthy Families initiative to support expanded literacy programs for Lake County families with children ages 3 to 5 through home visits.

• $15,000: United Way of Lake County's Better Together Program to support early learning for children ages 3 and younger and their caregivers. Families receive resources and materials to learn, play and develop school readiness skills together. Funding supports 36 sessions for 10 to 12 families each at Green Bay Early Childhood Center in North Chicago.

• $12,000: Bright by Text, a national bilingual texting program that puts expert tips, games and child development information in the hands of caregivers. Bright by Text partners with experts such as PBS, Sesame Street, the CDC, and others to develop content for families with children ages prenatal to 8.

• $8,000: United Way of Lake County's Early Learning Clubs to provide bilingual opportunities for children to learn basic skills while their parents are empowered to be their child's first teacher. Curbside pickup of learning materials will connect more children to Early Learning Clubs.

• $5,000: Heroines United for Giving and Support/North Preschool to support a community engagement initiative of Women United where members embrace a school, project or community with the resources and care it needs to succeed. In 2019, Women United HUGS Committee started a new partnership with North Preschool in Waukegan to support reading in classrooms, special events, family programming, parent workshops, and other curricula to enhance learning programs for 140 students.

"It's a real honor to be able to distribute such a large sum to support our Lake County children," said Lori Miller, chair of Women United. "We know they're our future, and we want the best for them. Our women rallied and worked hard to raise a significant amount, particularly this past year because the needs were even greater than usual due to COVID."

Women United of Lake County is a powerful network of more than 115 women who enable each other to leverage their passions, ideas, expertise, and resources to focus on their signature issue: early childhood education in Lake County's most vulnerable communities.

The Little Kids, Big Futures Fund is directed by members and was established to provide education grants to area nonprofits.

To get involved in Women United of Lake County, or to donate to the Little Kids, Big Futures fund, contact Diana Nielander, manager of Women United, at or visit

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