GAR Foundation Awards Grant to Early Childhood Resource Center's SPARK Program 

Through funding, listening, research, advocacy, and communications, the GAR Foundation works to connect Akron and make it a smarter, stronger, and more vibrant community. 

Earlier this year, the GAR Foundation awarded nearly $2 million in grants to local nonprofits, including $150,000 to the Early Childhood Resource Center.

This funding will support the Early Childhood Resource Center’s Supporting Partnerships to Assure Ready Kids (SPARK) program in Summit County. Focused on kindergarten readiness, the SPARK program engages 3- and 4-year-old children in lessons developed using state educational standards.

SPARK activities are specifically designed to help preschoolers strengthen their early literacy skills, math skills, motor skills, and social-emotional development. The program also teaches parents to engage with their children and embrace their role as their child’s first and most important teacher. 

Every family participating in the SPARK program is assigned a trained parent partner, who conducts lessons in the home once or twice a month. Following lessons, the parent partner provides the SPARK family with books, supplies, and guidance, which enables parents to continue working on school readiness skills with their children in between SPARK visits.

SPARK has served nearly 19,000 Ohio children since its inception in 2003. Ongoing independent evaluation of the program has determined that children who participate in the SPARK program consistently outperform their non-participating peers on Ohio’s Kindergarten Readiness Assessment (KRA), to a statistically significant degree. 

A Trusted Partner

Since 2017, the GAR Foundation has provided around $1.6 million in funding for Early Childhood Resource Center initiatives outside SPARK, including the Supporting Teachers and Ready Students (STARS) and Business Operations and Staffing Solutions (BOSS) programs.

“When it comes to supporting nonprofits, we really do our due diligence,” said Kristin Toth, GAR senior vice president. “After working with the Early Childhood Resource Center, we know the quality of work they provide for initiatives like the SPARK program. They’re top-notch professionals who are highly trusted in the community by everyone from preschools to other funders across multiple counties.”

Toth noted that GAR trusts the Early Childhood Resource Center not only for its community outreach, but also as an organizational partner. The Center’s knowledge, professionalism, and passion have been instrumental as GAR has developed some of its own programs. 

The Child is the Center

The Early Childhood Resource Center believes the child is the center of everything the organization does. These local children eventually grow into adults who become central to economic growth and prosperity in our communities. As such, high quality early childhood education is essential to ensuring our future workforce is equipped with more productive, successful, and active participants. Unfortunately, early childhood education is in crisis. Toth cites undervalued preschool staff as one of the primary challenges.

“Many child care professionals work from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., with little to no benefits, at poverty-level wages,” said Toth. “These factors, along with high burnout rates, have created a dwindling (child care) workforce.”

To combat these challenges facing the industry, the Early Childhood Resource Center works to help stabilize struggling child care centers by assisting administrators in efficiently managing their facilities, identifying cost savings, training caregivers, and securing additional funding and resources.

Equally as important, Toth points out, is awareness. The Early Childhood Resource Center has taken steps to build community awareness around important early childhood issues through events that include its recent Kindergarten Kickoff fundraiser, which helped raise support for the SPARK program. Additionally, in October the Center hosted an event for local business leaders that featured Nobel Laureate James Heckman, who spoke about the effects of the child care crisis on our workforce.


Moses Named New Executive Director of Early Childhood Resource Center

Angela Moses assumes lead role as Scott Hasselman retires.

The Early Childhood Resource Center, a Canton, Ohio-based organization dedicated to the healthy development of children and high-quality early childhood education and care, announces that Angela Moses is its new executive director effective October 27, 2023. Moses replaces Scott Hasselman upon his retirement from the organization. During Hasselman’s 13-year career at the Center, he successfully expanded programming for caregivers, foster parents, teachers, child care providers, and children. His leadership involved growing the Center from a one-county provider with a budget of $600,000 to a multifaceted organization serving more than six counties with a budget that exceeds $6 million.

"It’s our honor to wish Scott every blessing on this new journey,” said Janice G. Murphy, MSN, FACHE, president and CEO of the Sisters of Charity Health System, the parent organization of the Early Childhood Resource Center. “We’re so proud of where Scott has led the organization, and we’ll miss his energy and passion for every family and child impacted by the Early Childhood Resource Center.”

Moses started at the Center 22 years ago. Her dedication to early childhood education propelled her through several critical roles at the Center, including director of professional development and SPARK replication; director of early care and education services; and assistant executive director, where she worked directly with Hasselman for many years.

When I decided to retire, I knew the Center would be in good hands,” said Hasselman.“ Angela fully understands our mission and programs. She also has strong relationships with our community partners, making her a natural fit for the role. Ultimately, her passion for early childhood education will be the force to take the Early Childhood Resource Center to even greater heights.”

Under Moses’ leadership, the Early Childhood Resource Center aims to continue growing. By seeking to expand its resources, efforts, and community partnerships, the Center hopes to serve more children; educate more parents, caregivers, and child care providers; and improve awareness related to the importance of early childhood education.

“Angela has demonstrated herself as an outstanding successor to Scott through her exceptional leadership and total commitment to the mission and values of the Early Childhood Resource Center,” said Murphy. “We’re grateful and pray for both Scott and Angela for all they have done to advance the charism of the Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine in Canton, Ohio.”

Moses said the Center will continue to place its primary focus on serving children and their families.

“I look forward to working with our team to continue to make sure the child is at the center of everything we do,” said Moses. “Scott was an excellent leader. He helped position the Center for continued growth and to develop community partnerships aimed at impacting our communities’ most valuable resources, our children. Our goal is to provide children with a great start in education, so they’re more likely to graduate high school, go to college, become solid employees, and become more productive members of our community.”

The child is the center of everything we do at the Early Childhood Resource Center, a ministry of the Sisters of Charity Health System. Our mission is to promote the healthy development of young children by strengthening families, improving the quality of early learning experiences, increasing school and community readiness, and informing public policy. The Early Childhood Resource Center provides a welcoming atmosphere, inclusive of all people, that honors, respects, and celebrates everyone’s unique perspective. We encourage diversity and the sharing of thoughts and ideas to create a learning environment that’s responsive to the needs of all young children and those who educate and care for them.


SPARK Program Designated a Best Practice

The SPARK Kindergarten Readiness Program has officially been designated a Best Practice for inclusion in the MCH Innovations Database. 

The MCH Innovations Database catalogs “what’s working” in the maternal and child health field. The Best Practice designation is awarded to programs that are effective, are grounded in practice-based evidence, meaningfully embrace collaboration, and have been successfully replicated with positive outcomes. Funders and researchers look to the database when searching for programs that positively impact maternal and child health. 

The database is a part of the Innovation Hub of the Association of Maternal & Child Health Programs (AMCHP), which serves as a national resource, partner, and advocate for state public health leaders and others working to improve maternal and child health public health systems.

SPARK Ohio Director Mary Brady stated, “We are so pleased that SPARK has been designated a Best Practice program. This designation, coupled with over 18 years of significantly positive evaluation outcomes, proves SPARK is highly effective at cultivating school readiness, increasing parental engagement in children’s learning, and setting children up for lifelong success. Because the program has been replicated in numerous communities, SPARK is now helping families living in 22 Ohio school districts to work toward kindergarten readiness.”


Early Childhood Resource Center Leads Ababus Child Care Center to Five-Star Rating

Abacus Child Care Center in Akron has faced many challenges over its two decades in operation. Since Abacus began working with Early Childhood Resource Center, it has earned a five-star Step Up To Quality rating, the highest possible in the state. 

Abacus has faced staff and administration changes, building issues, vandalism, and fluctuating enrollment. Despite these challenges, Early Childhood Resource Center has helped Abacus to stabilize and excel.

Abacus, which has an infant building and a preschool building, began participating in the Early Childhood Resource Center’s STARS (Supporting Teachers and Ready Students) program in 2019. At the time, the child care center was not Step Up to Quality star rated at all. Now, both the infant and preschool buildings are five-star rated.

“Early Childhood Resource Center has provided continuous support to us,” said TiAsia Riley, the administrator for the Abacus preschool building. “They helped us transition from a one-star to a three-star to a five-star rating. And they helped 100 percent of Abacus teachers achieve CDA compliance.”

CDA stands for Child Development Associate, and it’s one of the most sought-after staff certifications in child care. The CDA certification means a caregiver has been trained to understand child development and early childhood best practices, and has experience in the field.  

Riley said Early Childhood Resource Center staff members, including Regional Coordinator Elizabeth Schilling, have helped Abacus greatly: they’ve conducted assessments, made recommendations, and trained Abacus staff. Their ongoing guidance and support has made a huge difference. 

“Early Childhood Resource Center has provided our team with enough training that we now know what to look out for and what to expect during audits to maintain our five-star rating,” said Riley. “If we need something or have a question, we can always reach out to them.”

That five-star rating ensures a better start for young children. It also means Abacus has become more financially sustainable.  

“As a five-star-rated child care center, we get more reimbursement from the state of Ohio for the work we do,” said Riley. “And we’re able to provide better care and learning experiences for the children.”

Riley added that high-quality care gives children a much better start in life.

“One hundred percent of childhood experiences impact adulthood,” said Riley. “We do everything possible to ensure we positively impact the children. The Early Childhood Resource Center helps us do just that.”

Thanks to Abacus and Early Childhood Resource Center, 60 children in Akron are getting five-star care. And that adds up to a better start for every one.



Early Childhood Resource Center and PNC: A Match That's Meant to Be

The Early Childhood Resource Center’s mission is to promote the healthy development of young children by strengthening families, improving the quality of early learning experiences, and increasing school and community readiness.

PNC’s signature philanthropic mission, PNC Grow Up Great®, is focused on preparing young children for school and life by increasing access to high-quality early childhood education.

With two missions so closely aligned, it’s only natural that the two organizations made for a great match.

Helping Children Grow

In 2004, PNC launched an initiative that focused the company’s philanthropic efforts on one area to make the biggest possible impact. At that time, an internal survey revealed PNC employees were most interested in helping to support education and children. After some additional research into the high potential for impact and return on investment, PNC’s focus on high-quality early childhood education was born.

PNC Grow Up Great® provides tools and resources to help develop curious young minds. Through the program, PNC is dedicated to serving children from birth to age 5, especially those from underrepresented populations, by empowering and supporting their caregivers and teachers.

According to Jennifer Dale Fox, PNC client and community relations director for the Akron region, her company’s support of the Early Childhood Resource Center should come as no surprise.

“Early childhood education is one of the most underfunded categories in the spectrum,” said Fox. “Children are at a major disadvantage without the proper educational foundation. A slow start leads to poor educational outcomes, and most students [who fall behind] can never catch up.”

Fox said a slow start often follows students throughout their education and can lead to higher absenteeism and lower graduation rates. Investing in high-quality early childhood education from the beginning ultimately helps our communities thrive. 

SPARK of Interest

Fox first got involved with the Early Childhood Resource Center when assistant executive director Angela Moses invited her to explore the Center’s SPARK (Supporting Partnerships to Assure Ready Kids) kindergarten readiness program. Soon after meeting Moses, Fox knew she wanted to become more active with the nonprofit organization.

“Angela is extremely focused on making a positive impact on early childhood education,” said Fox. “She’s a fountain of knowledge, and always has so many important early childhood education facts on the tip of her tongue. She’s inspiring.”

PNC provides financial support, employee volunteerism, and additional resources to the Early Childhood Resource Center. In addition, Joseph Luckring, PNC regional president for Akron, serves on the Center’s board.

“PNC has supported quality early childhood education through more than $200 million in grants and more than 1 million employee volunteer hours,” Luckring said. “Through the PNC Grow Up Great® initiative and collaborations with early learning experts and nonprofit organizations, we've impacted the lives of 8 million children. Much of the work we do at PNC makes me proud, but the significant and far-reaching impact of this work and my board service with the Center is especially gratifying and leaves me optimistic for the future.”

In addition, PNC supports the Great Start for Great Futures (GSGF) Coalition, in which the Center plays a key role. The Coalition is a group of Stark County early education providers, agencies, advocates, and community leaders collaborating to improve children’s outcomes from the prenatal months to kindergarten. GSGF develops systems that align with clear metrics and integrates strategic partners into its work to heighten public awareness and equip decision makers to impact outcomes.

Economic Impact

PNC works with the GSGF Coalition to elevate the child care profession—including advocating to raise the hourly wage of child care providers and expand their access to health insurance. In November, The Hechinger Report noted that the average child care provider takes home just $13.22 per hour.

According to Fox, in Stark County, PNC is observing local business owners collaborating to ensure their employees have access to adequate child care.

Fox said many people don’t realize child care is also a workforce issue. Not only do children benefit from the strong start that high-quality child care provides, but parents, employers, and the community also benefit because of the impact it has on the workforce.

Important Mission

Fox doesn’t see PNC’s—or her personal—involvement with the Early Childhood Resource Center easing up. The work is too important.

“From the moment a baby is born, it’s our job to provide the right stimulation,” said Fox. “Every sound, every word, and every learning opportunity helps develop the superhighway that becomes a child’s brain. We’re proud to collaborate with community organizations making a positive impact on that educational development. And we’re thrilled to be on board in supporting the great work of the Early Childhood Resource Center.”

Broad Commitment

Since kicking off PNC Grow Up Great® in 2004, PNC has:

•  Distributed $225 million in grants to organizations that support early childhood education.

•  Supported 8 million children through grant-funded programs and mobile education tours.

• V olunteered more than 1 million hours through a progressive policy that permits employees up to 40 hours of paid time off for volunteerism.

The economic vitality and growth of our communities is rooted in the success of our future leaders. Nearly 20 years in, PNC has been committed to helping provide our youngest learners with the foundation they need to succeed in school and life. It is, quite simply, the right thing to do, today and every day.



Early Childhood Resource Center Welcomes Two New Distinguished Board Members


Belden Brick’s Bradley H. Belden and J.M. Smucker’s Melissa Chow are committed to helping promote the healthy development of young children.

CANTON, Ohio (Feb. 8, 2023) – The Early Childhood Resource Center, a Canton, Ohio-based organization dedicated to the healthy development of children, announced that Bradley H. Belden and Melissa Chow have joined its board of directors.

Belden, president of The Belden Brick Co., has cumulative years of experience serving on boards and committees throughout the state of Ohio, and has an impressive resume of professional work experience to back it up. After graduating with a major in finance from Boston College, Belden worked for the Chicago Board Options Exchange and for JPMorgan Chase & Co. in New York City. Starting at The Belden Brick Co. in 2004 as head of the environment, health, & safety department, Belden’s reach gradually grew as he began to oversee the quality, purchasing, and customer service departments as well. In 2019, Belden was promoted to president.

Belden also serves on committees for the Brick Industry Association, the Ohio Aggregates & Industrial Minerals Association (for which he serves as board president), and the Ohio Manufacturing Association (for which he chairs the Energy Group). Belden also has served on local boards for nonprofit organizations, including ArtsinStark and the Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Chow, director of food and beverage innovation for The J.M. Smucker Co., began her career at General Mills after graduating from the State University of New York (SUNY) at Buffalo with a degree in chemical engineering. After earning her master’s in business administration (MBA) from the University of Rochester’s Simon Graduate School of Business, she was hired by Unilever, then Capital One, where she acquired skills and experience in brand management, new product development, and acquisition marketing. She’s worked for J.M. Smucker since 2016. Chow resides in Akron and is a mother of three young children.

“We’re delighted to have people as experienced and dedicated as Mr. Belden and Ms. Chow on our board,” said Scott Hasselman, executive director of the Early Childhood Resource Center. “Their willingness to make time for us in their busy work lives shows how committed they are to the betterment of children, which is what it’s all about at the Early Childhood Resource Center. The child is the center of everything we do, and our two new board members embody that spirit in what they’re doing to help promote the healthy development of young children.”

The child is the center of everything we do at the Early Childhood Resource Center, a ministry of the Sisters of Charity Health System. Our mission is to promote the healthy development of young children by strengthening families, improving the quality of early learning experiences, increasing school and community readiness, and informing public policy. The Early Childhood Resource Center provides a welcoming atmosphere, inclusive of all people, that honors, respects, and celebrates everyone’s unique perspective. We encourage diversity and the sharing of thoughts and ideas to create a learning environment that’s responsive to the needs of all young children and those who educate and care for them.




Departing Board Members Leave Big Impact on the Early Childhood Resource Center

By Angela Moses

Director of Early Care and Education Services

CANTON, Ohio (Dec. 1, 2022) – 

Deuble, Howard, Mingo-Miles, and Rice dedicated nearly a decade each to our work that focuses on helping children get the best possible start in life.

The Early Childhood Resource Center has been providing caregivers and families with the resources they need to help children succeed for more than 20 years. Throughout those two decades, we’ve remained committed to providing high-quality training and coaching to parents, early childhood professionals, and all others who directly influence young children.

We always make sure The Child is at the Center of everything we do.

This focus has enabled the Center to grow over the years through the addition of multiple programs, including Supporting Partnerships to Assure Ready Kids (SPARK), child care resource and referral services, and parent outreach and education services. We’ve also expanded our service area to include six Northeast Ohio counties, and we’ve partnered with numerous local organizations, including the Division of Child Support.

One thing we’ve learned over the years is that value is created when a diverse group of people from outside our organization lends time and resources to make a difference for the children in our communities. Much of our recent growth and success can be attributed to the work of our board, the wonderful support we get from our communities, and the dedication of our staff. 

Thanks for the Commitment and Dedication!

As we approach the end of 2022, four Early Childhood Resource Center board members’ terms are ending. We thank Robin Mingo-Miles, Chrissy Rice, Michael Howard, and Jennifer Deuble for their contributions. Each one of them has served on the board for nine years.

Robin Mingo-Miles retired from the Stark Metropolitan Housing Authority. She’s has seen first-hand just how important a good start in education is to help children succeed.

“When I joined the early Childhood Resource Center board, I didn’t truly understand all the resources the Center provided,” she said. “It didn’t take me long to learn about the many wonderful opportunities the Center creates for children and their families.”

now working with the Alliance for Children and Families in Alliance, says the accessibility of the Center’s much-needed services is extremely important to her.

“The services provided by the Center are accessible for anyone,” she said. “It’s incredible that such life-changing services are available for everyone who needs them. Every child deserves these types of opportunities early in life.”

Chrissy Rice is a case manager at Plain Local Schools. She, too, has seen first-hand the impact the right educational resources can have on all children, from elementary through high school students.

“I think of myself as an advocate for education,” Rice said. “And I think that’s how I was able to contribute as a member of the Center’s board. I didn’t have as many business connections as some of the other board members, but I understood and had experienced just how important it is for children to get a good start in their educations.”

Rice said different people bring different resources, and that truly benefits organizations like the Center.

“It’s been exciting to see the Center continue to grow,” she said. “And it’s been wonderful to see such great community support for its programs and initiatives. The Center can benefit from the experiences and resources of people with different backgrounds. For that reason, I encourage others to find a way to lend a hand.”

Michael Howard retired from his post as a judge in the Stark County Family Court. His experience advocating for children’s and families’ rights was instrumental in his ability to help the Center do the right things for the right reasons on behalf of the children and families we serve.

Jennifer Deuble is a child life specialist at the Palliative Care Center at Akron Children’s Hospital. She has a deep understanding of the importance of education early in the life of a child.

About the Early Childhood Resource Center

The Child is at the Center of everything we do at the Early Childhood Resource Center, a ministry of the Sisters of Charity Health System. 

Our mission is to promote the healthy development of young children by strengthening families, improving the quality of early learning experiences, increasing school and community readiness, and informing public policy.

The Early Childhood Resource Center provides a welcoming atmosphere, inclusive of all people, that honors, respects, and celebrates everyone’s unique perspective. We encourage diversity and the sharing of thoughts and ideas to create a learning environment that’s responsive to the needs of all young children and those who educate and care for them.