In addition to enhancing communities by delivering exceptional buildings, we make it our business to support organizations that are making neighborhoods better places to live, work and raise families.
Recently the Opus Foundation® awarded a $50,000 Impact Fund grant to the Upper Room in Kansas City. A strong fit for the Opus Foundation's Early Childhood Education focus area, the grant will fund improvements required to elevate the Upper Room's Child Development Center to a National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) accredited Early Education Program.
The Upper Room's mission is to provide culturally diverse youth in Kansas City's urban core with high-quality, educational out-of-school programs from cradle to college. Created in 1997 in the upper room of an urban Kansas City Catholic church, the Upper Room has provided progressive learning programs to thousands of inner-city youth living in poverty. I have always had access to high-quality education; volunteering and becoming involved with the Upper Room has opened my eyes to the stark realities faced by others.
Birth of the Child Development Center
In 2003, the Upper Room created a Child Development Center for children who are six months to five years old. Located in an area referred to as a “desert zone" for quality childcare centers, the Child Development Center is an important fixture in the community, providing a safe and nurturing environment for children, most of whom are living in single-parent households with incomes below poverty level.
Achieving National Accreditation
In 2018, the Upper Room received a $49,515 Impact Fund grant from the Opus Foundation for initial funding required to convert the Child Development Center from a state licensed childcare center to an NAEYC-accredited Early Education Program. This accreditation requires meeting stringent standards in 10 focus areas: relationships, curriculum, teaching, child assessment, nutrition and health, staff qualifications, relationships with families and the community, physical environment and program leadership and management. The grant allowed the Upper Room to purchase a multitude of items needed for accreditation, including supplies, equipment and toys designed to help children to learn through both play and structured activities.
In late 2019, the Opus Foundation continued to support Upper Room's NAEYC-accreditation goal with an additional $50,000 grant. It will fund the expansion of two playground areas required for accreditation – one for infant and toddler-aged children and another for preschool-aged children. With this money, the Upper Room plans to complete both playgrounds by spring 2020.
“The generosity of the Opus Foundation has been critical in our journey to be NAEYC-accredited," said Tonia Gilbert, CEO of the Upper Room. “Not only were we able to purchase all supplies, materials, toys and equipment needed for each classroom, which is mandatory for accreditation, but we are also now able to create two playgrounds with state-of-the-art equipment. We could not become accredited without this support from Opus."
Opus' relationship with the Upper Room began back in 2010 with Oscar Healy, Regional Vice President. “I learned about the Upper Room when my own kids volunteered there during high school," he said. “Since that time, Opus associates have volunteered at many Upper Room events and the Opus Foundation has supported the nonprofit with multiple grants. They are doing great work to provide education to young people who would not otherwise have the opportunity."
Our team of Opus associates in Kansas City is very committed to supporting nonprofits in the area. I see this first-hand, as I coordinate our volunteer events. For the Upper Room, we have helped sort books at book drives, read to the children and even played tennis with them last year. I feel fortunate to work for a company like Opus that places priority on supporting communities.
“The first word that comes to mind when I think of Opus is authentic," said Gilbert. “The people of Opus continue to be a driving force behind our success, continually supporting us both financially and by selflessly volunteering of their time."
Once the Child Development Center is officially NAEYC-accredited, the Upper Room will apply for Head Start seats, which will provide additional funding, elevated status for recruiting additional students and provide much-needed long-term financial stability.
The Opus Foundation is building community for a better tomorrow by supporting projects and programs that make our communities better places to live, work and raise families through grants to nonprofit organizations in the areas of early childhood education, youth development, workforce development, community revitalization and pressing/emerging needs. Read more about the Foundation's work.