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Preschool Teachers' Wish Lists Fulfilled Through Foundation Donation

Preschool teachers in 22 states and the District of Columbia had their requests on the online charity Donors Choose funded Tuesday through a $504,000 grant from the PNC Foundation, a charitable organization created by the Pittsburgh-based financial services group. 

The money paid for 849 projects requested by teachers in public and charter pre-K classrooms in states where the financial firm does business. Donors Choose connects donors with classroom teachers who are making often-modest requests to support their students. 

For example, one project the foundation funded was for "family engagement backpacks," which will allow teachers to regularly send home learning material that children can share with their parents, said Sally McCrady, the president and chairwoman of the PNC Foundation. McCrady said other teachers were requesting money for "sensory seats"—special cushions that allow children to wiggle or rock while they are seated. The average project cost was $653, McCrady said. 

"These are not huge requests they have," she said. "They're just looking for extra resources to bring the curriculum to life." 

The partnership with PNC is also allowing Donors Choose to open its platform for the first time to Head Start teachers. Previously, teachers in public and charter pre-K programs could make requests through the platform, but not Head Start, a federally funded preschool program that serves about 1 million children from low-income families. 

"Our research shows almost all Head Start teachers are spending their own dollars on basic resources for students," said Yasmina Vinci, the executive director of the National Head Start Association, in a statement. "This is a great opportunity to empower Head Start teachers to secure the resources needed to maximize the Head Start advantage."

The "flash funding" is part of a $5 million grant to Donors Choose that will be used to match other donations to pre-K and Head Start programs in the states where PNC operates. Requests that come with matching funds are more likely to be fully funded, McCrady said. The foundation will also provide $50 electronic gift cards to 14,500 of its employees who volunteered  in 2016 with the foundation's early-childhood initiative, Grow up Great. Employees will be able to direct that money to the classroom project of their choice.

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