Pennsylvania Early Learning keys to QualityThe NW Regional Key collaborates with regional early learning and school-age partners to support positive outcomes for children.

Pre K Counts is an initiative to build and strengthen pre-kindergarten partnerships.

United Way of Erie plays a unique role both as a leader in the health/human services sector.

Accredited Under the Pennsylvania Association of Nonprofit Organizations’ Standards for Excellence®

News and Events


Installation of City Center’s new playground fence last week was made possible through the generous support of the Erie Community Foundation. Thank you for helping us improve the safety and appearance of our playground!


#GivingTuesdayNow is underway, a global day of giving and unity created as an emergency response to the unprecedented need caused by COVID-19. We are asking for your support to help us purchase personal protection equipment and thermometers now needed at our centers due to COVID-19. 

Here is how you can help: We are asking you to become an Early Connections Hero on GivingTuesday and consider to give – even a small donation will help:

All Early Connections sites will be closed after 5pm today (3/20) and remain closed until we are told otherwise. It wasn’t an easy decision but we want all staff and families to be safe. We will update things as we know more. Thank you

Dine & Donate Event to Benefit Early Connections

Ready for some BBQ? During the week of February 24th – 29th you can enjoy some delicious, authentic Texas barbeque at Dickey’s Barbecue Pit while showing your support for Early Connections. Simply present a copy of the flyer at the time of checkout, then place your receipt in the designated donation box. Dickey’s Barbecue Pit will donate 10% of the sales to Early Connections. Dine in or carry out ALL WEEK LONG.
*Online orders cannot be counted towards donations. Flyer must be presented at time of purchase. No cell phone pictures of flyer will be accepted.

Early Connections Annual Report

We are pleased to present to you our 2018-2019 annual report highlighting Early Connections’ work throughout the past year.  We continue to inspire the hearts and minds of children in our community through our high quality programming and community connections. We hope you will take a few minutes to learn more about Early Connections and join us in our efforts to provide Erie County children with a quality early learning experience.


Winners of the TACO WARS Fundraising Event

Thank you to everyone who came out in support of our Taco Wars fundraising event! Eight local chefs competed in three categories – Best Taco, Judge’s Choice, and Taco with a Twist.

  • Best Taco – Lavery Brewing Company
  • Judge’s Choice – The Cork 1794
  • Taco with a Twist – Molly Brannigans


It’s terrific taco time at Early Connections’ FIRST EVER Taco Wars fundraising event! Tickle your taste buds for a tiny ticket donation, and take part in awarding the title of Erie’s Best Taco! Yes, YOUR VOTE COUNTS!

Eight local chefs are vying for the Best Taco title, and we’ve love it if you’d be part of the festivities. Join us on November 3 at the Brewerie between 1-4:00 PM, sample all the tasty taco treats, and vote for your favorite. While you’re deciding on your choice, visit our basket raffle which is made possible by Early Connections Board Members!

All donations will help to support quality education at our 6 locations in Erie County.


Congratulations to Carrisa Kepple for having been recognized at this morning’s UnifiedErie Youth Awards ceremony! The Youth Work Awards celebrate the amazing adults in our community who go above and beyond in their work with children and youth at non-profit agencies in Erie County.

FREE PRESCHOOL! We have a limited number of Pre-K Counts spots available at several of our locations. Pre-K Counts is a FREE preschool program for eligible 3 & 4 year old children as well as 5 year olds who miss the Kindergarten age cutoff for their district.
Call soon – Spots are filling up fast!!

Thank you to our Erie Gives Day Donors! We truly appreciate those who generously chose Early Connections as one of their favorite nonprofits yesterday. Your gift will help us continue to provide high quality early care and education to the children we serve.


We celebrated the 100th day of school in North East today! They did an activity with yummy snacks, but apparently they aren’t really 100 years old!

The Erie Police Dept. visited our John E. Horan Garden Apartments Center recently. They read a story and gave out toys, blankets, hats and gloves to our children. Thanks so much for the visit!

LEAP Science Family Engagement Event at City Center

City Center hosted a LEAP Science Family Engagement Event on October 29th. Children enrolled in our Pre-K Counts program and their families had a fun time experimenting and learning about air and wind.

Thank you WICU-12 for your continued partnership

We are thankful for WICU 12 for donating $2,500 to the Erie’s Future Fund Scholarship Program. Partner donations ensure that quality preschool scholarships are available to Erie County children up to two years prior to kindergarten. Erie’s Future Fund Scholarship Program is administered by Early Connections.

Pictured from right to left:  Emily Matson, WICU-TV; Darlene Kovacs, Executive Director, Early Connections; Amanda Post, WICU-12; Michelle Harkins, Associate Executive Director, Early Connections

Early Connections staff had a great time making Elmo faces with children during Elmo’s visit to the Erie Art Museum during Celebrate Erie.
We got to have our picture taken with Elmo!

We Love to Read!

Early Connections Summer Campers stopped by United Way’s Little Free Library recently! Each pre-K child was paired with an older buddy to help with picking out their favorite book! We even had some curbside read aloud time!

Kindergarten Transition

Pre-K students from each of our Early Connections centers that will be attending kindergarten in the Fall visited Lincoln Elementary School as part of our transition to Kindergarten program. It was a great experience and lots of fun. Thank you to all that helped make this possible!!!

Preschool Art Show

Children at our West Side proudly showed off their art work to their families. Every imaginable surface was used to display the large variety of art creations the children made for their spring Art Show.

Exploring the Arts with NAMI of Erie County

Sixty preschoolers from City Center and West Side attended Exploring the Arts with NAMI of Erie County in April at the expERIEnce Children’s Museum. The children explored the museum and made maracas for a sing/play-a-long with Lori Burke. Exploring Arts with Nam focuses on how art and creativity can positively affect mental health and wellness

Creative Dance with Hula Hoops

Professional Hoop Dancer Jennifer Dennehy did creative dance, hoop dance and hoop making with City Center school age children during her residency at City Center this spring. The children created their own hoops and hosted performances for their parents and other classrooms.


Thank You


Early Connections Extends It’s Sincere Appreciation to the Following Sponsors: 

Diamond Sponsors

Kiwanis Club of Erie
The Plazony Family Foundation
Times Publishing Company
The Sunflower Club

Platinum Sponsors

Erie Bank
Presque Isle Downs & Casino

Gold Sponsors

Rep. Flo and Vicki Fabrizio
Rep. Pat and Michelle Harkins
Dr. Paul and Darlene Kovacs
Mike and LeeAnn Thomas

Chartbusters Sponsors

Lori Hetrick
Sean and Kimberly Beers

Thank You! East Erie Moose Lodge #593

Early Connections, Inc. is thankful to the East Erie Moose Lodge #593 for their donation of $500. The Moose Lodge supportMoose Lodge donation 1-2017s family-friendly causes throughout the community.  From left to right:  Michelle Harkins, Associate Executive Director, Early Connections; Craig Westover, East Erie Moose Lodge Governor, and Stephanie King, Director of Early Connections West Side.  Thank you Moose Board and Members!

Thank you! UPMC Health Plan

Early Connections is very thankful to their partners, UPMC Health Plan, for donating $40,000 through the Neighborhood Assistance Program.  This funding will be used to provide high-quality curriculum in each of the Early Connections classrooms throughout Erie County, delivering the best early learning opportunities for children to become better prepared for success in school, and life.UPMC-NAP donation for curriculum check presentation Jan 2018
Pictured (L-R): Darlene Kovacs, Executive Director, Early Connections; Jenny Weigold Geertson, Senior Manager, Regional Community Relations and Marketing Operations, UPMC Health Plan; Michelle Harkins, Associate Executive Director, Early Connections.



Thank you to everyone who donated so generously on Erie Gives Day to help Early Connections improve our playgrounds!


Annual Reports

Early Connections Annual Report

Creating Lifelong Learners, One Child at a Time

Early Connections is pleased to present the information in this annual report to the community.  We remain committed to our mission, providing leadership, advocacy, and quality programs in early care and education. We believe this represents the best means to assist young children and their families, giving young learners the enthusiasm and tools to succeed in their future education.

Front cover - Early Connections Annual Report 2016-2017

We work closely with our community partners to continually increase children’s access to quality early learning, and to provide an increasingly-diverse community of learners with multiple opportunities and means to explore new information, skills, and ideas.

In this report, we highlight Early Connections’ work during the 2016-2017 year within our organization and with our many community partners and supporters.  We continue to work for Erie County’s future by inspiring children’s love of learning and by connecting with families to ensure their children’s success.

Previous reports:


Early Connections 2014 Annual Report (part 1)

Early Connections 2014 Annual Report (part 2)