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.

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

News and Events

#GivingTuesday

Today is #GivingTuesday

Joey is a 2-year-old who initially came to us at Early Connections very shy and withdrawn.  There were safety issues in his home, and he needed to feel safe.  Our EC teacher provided a safe, nurturing environment to help him grow socially and developmentally.  After spending time in his classroom, Joey began to feel safe, and bonded with his teacher.  That is when we watched him blossom! 

Sadly, funding for this child abruptly ended and this child faced ending his care at Early Connections right away.  Our Family Support team worked hard to help his mom find other funding sources, but were unsuccessful. Mom was in the process of finding a job, but because she did not have one at that time, she did not qualify for child care subsidy. And how could a single mom go out and search for a job with no one to care for her child? Our Director and Teachers wanted to donate in some way to keep this young child in care, because they feared that Joey would lose the progress that he made.  They worried about his safety.  Because of the support of a few donors, this little one was able to continue attending our early care and education program for four additional weeks!  During that time, mom made great progress.  She secured a job, and is currently applying for child care subsidy.  That means that Joey can continue to attend Early Connections, and thrive!

#GivingTuesday is the international day of generosity happening tomorrow, November 30, 2021. It was created as a global generosity movement, unleashing the power of people and organizations to transform their communities and the world. This year, we are asking for donations to contribute to our Bridge Funding program, which helps support our little ones who lose funding for childcare at Early Connections for up to an additional month. Please join us in supporting early childhood education together!

Join Our Team

We are looking for energetic, reliable and flexible teachers to join our team! We have full and part-time PreK Counts positions. Lead teachers shall possess a minimum of a Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Education or Child Development, as well as an active Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) Instructional Certification in Early Childhood Education. Teaching Assistants must have an Associate’s Degree or higher or a Child Development Associate’s Certification (CDA). Send resumes to cfoust@earlyconnectionserie.org.

Current Openings for Pre-K Counts

We have openings in our Pre-K Counts program at several of our locations. Children must be 3 years old as of 8/24/2020 and younger than the entry age for kindergarten. Income guidelines apply (a family earning up to 300% of the federal poverty level, such as a family of 4 earning up to $79,500). Part-time morning and afternoon and full-time spots available. Remote learning is also an option. Please call for more information! City Center and North East locations – 814-456-4576. Harbor Homes and John Horan Apartments location – 814-899-3310

Thank you for our new masks!

We would like to thank our Board member, Alicia Pelkowski, VP of Life Agent and Policyholder Services, for making sure that all of our children had masks; the designs were a hit! The masks were purchased by Erie Insurance’s Asian Affinity Network.

Keeping Warm!

We would like to thank United Way of Erie County for suggesting that coats from an anonymous donor (with a big heart!) be shared with our Early Connections children to keep them warm.  Thank you for your kindness!

Early Connections 2019-2020 Annual Report to the Community

“From tiny seeds grow mighty trees.” (Unknown).  As we have and continue to face a world health crisis that has impacted nearly every aspect of our daily lives, Early Connections has aimed to focus on the “tiny seeds” in in our community.  Our children remain our primary concern because it is only from them that our “mighty trees” of the future will grow.

Over this past year, Early Connections has recognized our community’s children must be nurtured.  To do so, we have focused on their health and well-being, support of their families, and innovative community relationships and collaborations.  We would like to thank our dedicated partners and supporters, and we want to recognize the dedication and selflessness our teachers and many other staff have shown throughout this time.  Early Connections remains committed to face any future obstacles as a community, just as we have this past year.

In summary, we are pleased to present our 2019-2020 annual report highlighting Early Connections’ work throughout this challenging time.

Finally, Early Connections would be remiss without recognizing the retirement of our Executive Director, Darlene Kovacs, and thanking her for many years of nurturing Early Connections’ tiny seeds.  Please be assured that Early Connections is entering the next year and those thereafter optimistic, energized, and eager to expand our organization, the services it offers, and the impact it has on our community.  Together, we grow.

Early Connections Board of Directors announces new Executive Director

Dear Early Connections’  families, friends, and partners,

It is with great excitement the Board of Directors announces the new Executive Director of our organization, Michelle Harkins. Michelle has been fulfilling the duties of this position since the retirement of our previous Executive Director, Darlene Kovacs, but officially assumed the title as of December 11, 2020.

The Board is thrilled that Michelle has agreed to fill this position permanently. She has expressed to the Board a vision for the organization to expand both internally and throughout the community. The Board is excited to assist Michelle as she endeavors down these paths, and we are confident that under her leadership Early Connections’ mission will be wholly exemplified.

In addition to welcoming Michelle to her new role, the Board would like to formally thank our administrative staff who has made this transition seamless for our families, partners, and supporters. Their hard work and dedication to our organization, particularly during this trying time in our society, is deeply appreciated.

Please join us in congratulating Michelle, and as always, should you have any questions, please feel free to contact the Board of Directors at Board@earlyconnectionserie.org.

Sincerely,

Jamie Schumacher, Board President

Happy Retirement!

We would like to extend our deep gratitude to Darlene Kovacs, our Executive Director, who retired at Thanksgiving time. Unfortunately, we were not able to celebrate with a typical retirement party due to the pandemic restrictions. Admin staff and our Early Connections Board President, Jamie Schumacher, extended a big thanks to Darlene (pictured), on behalf of everyone! 

We are thankful for her years of service and dedication to Early Connections. Additional funding obtained during her time of leadership helped provide opportunities to serve more children within our community. 

Darlene, on behalf of our Early Connections’ Board, our staff, and the children and families that we serve, we wish you well as you enjoy your next chapter in life! 

Funding Assistance for Infant Toddler Care

Early Connections wants to share great news with parents of infants and toddlers! We have funded spots available in some of our centers for qualifying children under age 3, through the Infant Toddler Contracted Slots program. This provides your child with an opportunity for a high-quality child care and early education experience at no cost to you if you meet program requirements. There are several toddler spots available right now at our City Center location! 

Please call the Early Learning Resource Center at 836-5898 and ask for more information about Infant Toddler Contracted Slots, or call City Center directly at 456-4576 – act quickly because available spots will fill soon!

Highlights

Thank you MaskErie!

We love the masks donated to us by MaskErie!

Warm clothes, warm hearts!

HATS OFF to Gina Sims, Thrivent Financial and Luther Memorial for putting HATS ON our friends at Early Connections. Gina collected donations and found ways to get the most out of every dollar to provide warm clothing to our children. Here are our happy recipients! 

Santa’s Helpers

A special thank you to Santa’s Helpers this year for their handmade gifts for our little ones.  Santa’s Helpers meet each morning to design, saw, glue, sand or paint wooden toys. Erie Press Systems donates utility costs, and space on the south side of their West 12th Street facility for the workshop, which is busy with the sound of saws and sanders. They work hard all year preparing for the season of giving.  We are so lucky to be recipients of their handiwork!

Kneeling with the Santa’s Helpers: Hannah Cowan, Early Connections Finance Manager and Michelle Harkins, Early Connections Acting Executive Director.


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!!!

Testimonials

Thank You

VINYL PALOOZA 4.0

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.


 

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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 2019-2020

Over this past year, Early Connections has recognized our community’s children must be nurtured. To do so, we have focused on their health and well-being, support of their families, and innovative community relationships and collaborations. We would like to thank our dedicated partners and supporters, and we want to recognize the dedication and selflessness our teachers and many other staff have shown throughout this time. Early Connections remains committed to face any future obstacles as a community, just as we have this past year.
In summary, we are pleased to present our 2019-2020 annual report highlighting Early Connections’ work throughout this challenging time.

Previous Annual Reports: Early Connections 2018-2019 Annual Report ; Early Connections 2017-2018 Annual Report