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Zell Family Foundation Donates $10 Million to Early-Childhood Organization

The Chicago-based Ounce of Prevention Fund, which focuses on early-childhood services including education, this week became the recipient of a $10 million donation from the Zell Family Foundation, also based in that city.

The Ounce, as it calls itself, operates several Early Head Start and Head Start programs in Chicago and offers home-visiting and doula—professional pregnancy and birthing supportprograms throughout Illinois, among other direct services. The organization also helped develop the first Educare center  in Chicago and continues to support 17 such centers throughout the country. Educare, a nonprofit, has won accolades for its focus on providing high-quality early-childhood education for children living in poverty.

"As the largest individual gift in Ounce history, this investment sets a new standard for major gifts to the Ounce and early-childhood organizations across the country," according to a statement the organization released Thursday.

The Zell Family Foundation is run by Helen Zell, the wife of billionaire investor Sam Zell. Helen Zell has previously served on the board of the Ounce of Prevention Fund and has been known to donate to education in Chicago, to the arts, and to abortion-rights groups.

She also has a reputation, according to Inside Philanthropy, of selecting organizations that interest her personally rather than evaluating multiple grant applications. The Zell Family Foundation doesn't publish guidelines for grant applications.

The Ounce of Prevention Fund and its two connected organizations held $65.4 million in assets in fiscal year 2013, according to their latest annual report. Details about how the new money will be spent have not yet been announced.

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