Letter from the CEO

Dear Friend –

Thank you for perusing our 2022 Gratitude Report. As the name implies, it is only  because of our generous donors, volunteers, and community partners that EarlystART can prepare Little Learners for bright futures.

You’ll see the positive results of our work sprinkled throughout this publication. What you may not see, however, is the incredible upheaval – arguably a crisis – happening in early childhood education.

For veteran organizations like EarlystART, we know full-well the issues that have long held back the field: low pay, fragmentation in the system, and diminishing public investment that leaves families holding the bill for high-quality care and education.

At EarlystART, we’re on a mission to not only imagine a brighter future, but to boldly pursue it with all we’ve got!

It’s the spirit behind startingEARLY, an initiative to increase the professionalism and capacity of the early childhood workforce. More than a means to removing barriers that have historically marginalized the early learning sector, it’s an actionable plan to create real change.

Better wages. Better educator retention. Better outcomes that support a vibrant community and future workforce. 

As we go about this transformational work, know that your support and advocacy mean more than you can ever imagine! 

Thank you for all you do to support EarlystART.

Deidre Anderson, CEO


Let’s keep imagining a better future for early education…then boldly pursue it together!

Board Update: A Message from Theodis

Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.

On behalf of the Board of Directors, I’m pleased to share that 2022 was a wonder-filled year of building bridges, inspiring minds, and impacting futures at EarlystART. 

In a few years we’ve grown to a nearly $8 million dollar enterprise with three early learning centers, the most recent expansion happening in the fall of 2020, on the heels of the pandemic. Since that time, we’ve learned that the world can change without warning and that resilience and innovation are oh-so essential.

It is why 2022 can also be described as a year of resetting and rebuilding. Our Board continues to re-tool our strategic plan with greater intentionality. We’ve leaned into our governance practices and empowered new voices at the table. Through it all, one thing remains abundantly clear: without high-quality educators, we will compromise the futures of our most valuable asset – our children.

Amid our nation’s crisis to retain early childhood educators, we ask, “How can we incentivize this vitally essential work, pay our teachers a livable wage, and find a way to fund it?”

The Board at EarlystART has responded unanimously:

  • Increasing starting pay of educators to $15/hour, regardless of position – a rate that surpasses Missouri’s average starting wage of $12.50/hour;
  • Committing to increase our advocacy efforts at both the state and regional levels for continued improvement to wages, benefits, and professional development.

Our work is far from done, but if we have learned anything in recent years, it is that we can emerge from the seemingly impossible when we unite for good.

Your continued investment in early childhood education and an equitably-compensated workforce will return immeasurable dividends – not the least of which is the wonder that inspires the best in each of us!

Theodis Watson, President





Board Members

  • Theodis Watson, President – Central Bank of the Midwest
  • Mary Jorgenson,  Past President – Heartland Presbytery Representative
  • Rebecca James, Vice President – Abovo
  • Phyllis Hardwick, Secretary/Treasurer – Community Capital Fund
  • Deidre Anderson, CEO, Ex-Officio – EarlystART
  • Tom Eatman, Director – Builders by Design, LLC
  • Alexis Kerr, Director – Hallmark
  • Todd Navrat, Director – J.E. Dunn Construction
  • Matthew Oates, Director – Burns & McDonnell
  • Ruth Stricklen Pullins, Director – University Health
  • Cydney Ricker, Director – Kansas City Chiefs
  • Joni Wickham, Director – Wickham James Strategies & Solutions



Over 90% of EarlystART Pre-K students achieve Missouri kindergarten-readiness benchmarks, a rate that far exceeds the readiness rate (about 30%) for children in our city.

Commitment to Diversity!

Here, we believe we are shaping the world as we dream it to be: diverse, equitable, and inclusive.

Developed by a collective community voice, EarlystART has long been rooted in the belief that every child has the ability to succeed in school and in​ life. Ending injustice, racism, and bias is fundamental to delivering on this promise.


77% of EarlystART children and families identify as Black, Indigenous, or People of Color (BIPOC).


65% of EarlystART faculty and staff identify as Black, Indigenous, or People of Color (BIPOC), reflecting diversity of the communities we serve.

Families see themselves reflected in classroom language, multicultural literature, toys, and curriculum, and their identities mirrored in staff and other parents.

Opportunities for meaningful inclusion and diversity are embraced. From celebrating Black History Month and Pride Month to marching in the Juneteenth Parade, EarlystART offers opportunities for students and families to grow in awareness and connection.

We promise a welcoming environment to all and are committed to an ongoing celebration of diversity.

3 kids cheering in their caps and gowns

EarlystART: By the Numbers


EarlystART kindergarten-readiness rate


Parents and caregivers supported by Family Advocate

Pre-K students entering kindergarten

Students benefiting from Bobbye Jean Fuller Early Education Fund

Family engagement events held


Students qualifying for Head Start/Early Head Start

Economic Impact of Early Education

Missouri’s lack of access to high-quality early childhood care, education, and services contributes to significant challenges for children, families, and the economy.

50% of all children live in a child care desert

2 out of 3 fourth-graders are reading below grade level (NAEP 2019)

Missouri is losing $1.35 billion/year due to child care issues (US Chamber Foundation)

In Kansas City

EarlystART works to ensure every family reaches its potential and that no child is turned away due to the cost of quality.

Less than ⅓ of children have access to high-quality early education

Costs are $10,000 to $16,000/year per child

Median households must spend nearly 20% of total income for a single child

Investing in Bright Futures

Research shows that childhood programs can yield a $4-$9 dollar return per $1 invested. The benefits are in the form of reduced costs for special education, social programs, and crime (The National Forum on Early Childhood Policy and Programs).

This means that a gift of $5,000 returns $20,000-$45,000 in societal benefits for our local economy!



There’s No Place Like Home

“I came back to EarlystART because early childhood education is at a tipping point and Kansas Citians need to come together for our youngest citizens. When you give to EarlystART, you are nurturing what makes each child inherently special. EarlystART kids stand out as confident, curious, and friendly because of your generosity.”
Alex Basalo

“Working with children reminds me how amazing and exciting life can be. Children motivate me to be a better person. St. Mark Center feels like home. Belonging and being appreciated are among my reasons for being here.”
Silvia Zavala

“My sister and I are stakeholders in EarlystART because of our passion and drive for early childhood education. We have 20 souls that we’re responsible for. Every child comes from a different walk of life – what comes easily to some won’t come easy to all. We’re working to see that every student is prepared to become independent, creative little learners that are also socially and emotionally resilient.”
Amanda & Akeyla Walker

“St. Mark Center became “home” and so much more to our family. The wraparound services were just what we needed, while St. Mark’s mission paved the way for my true calling: pursuing a career in the life-changing field of early childhood education. I could see how transformative it was for the children and families, and I knew that’s why God put St. Mark’s in my path.”
Kimberly McKeithen

“I chose to work at EarlystART because I love children and making a positive impact in their lives. It is a quality program that does a lot to support families and the community. The teachers are amazing and held to a high standard, with many growth opportunities for training and education.”

Nancy Bickel

“EarlystART is like home. They take good care of my children, and keep me up-to-date with resources and what’s happening in the community. These are the teachers I love and trust like family.”

E’Lisa Brown

Parent of five EarlystART students over the years


EarlystART’s dedicated arts educators integrate the arts in meaningful experiences for our families and the community. One of the ways we do this is through welcoming talented Artists in Residence to The Studio, our on-site makerspace. Watch this video to hear from one of EarlystART’s Artists-In-Residence, What-If Puppets!

EarlystART is a place where children thrive and families flourish.

Meet Marlissa Willis: a parent of two EarlystART students, EarlystART Parent Advocate, and a member of our Policy Council as well as our Parent Committee.

Questions with Phyllis Stevens

Every organization should be so lucky to have a Phyllis. She’s an above-and-beyond advocate, trusted advisor, and friend

How did you get involved with EarlystART?

One gorgeous spring morning in 2016, my friend, Alan Dubois, invited me to visit EarlystART, an organization I knew nothing about. The mission resonated immediately – deeply touching my heart and completely invading my head. Then I met Deidre Anderson and, as they say, ‘That’s all she wrote.’ I was hooked!

What inspires your dedication to EarlystART?

When I was introduced to EarlystART,  I had an epiphany. Though involved with social justice initiatives all my life, I’d never given much thought to the intrinsic power of high-quality early childhood education. Now, of course, I understand how investing in children from birth to five years will literally change the trajectory of their lives.

 Why is it important to reach out to others about a cause that is so dear to your heart?

In an EarlystART video, the late community leader, Kenny Baum, said it best: “We have to do this.” And we do. For me, watching little learners grow is a joy but tells only part of the story. 

I want others to know that, not only do our children and families benefit, the entire community benefits, society benefits.

“I’m thrilled to be connected to an organization that addresses the academic, social, and emotional needs of every student. It’s a place where children can flourish in self-awareness and self-expression, and to imagine their place in the world. As for me, being involved is a way to live my values.”

– Phyllis Stevens

Spotlight on our Generous Community

Here’s to our amazing donors – individuals, foundations, and organizations – that lift up our wonder-filled mission. Thank you for your kindness!

15 and the Mahomies Foundation Hall Family Foundation Northland Community Foundation
Carrie J. Loose Trust Hallmark Corporate Foundation Oppenstein Brothers Foundation
Central Bank of Kansas City Health Forward Foundation R and C Charitable Foundation
Children’s Services Fund of Jackson County Irven E. & NeVada P. Linscomb Foundation Fund Sherman Family Foundation
Community Builders Fund Jackson County COMBAT Shumaker Family Foundation
Francis Family Foundation Jackson County Outside Agency Stanley H. Durwood Foundation
G. Kenneth and Ann Baum Fund Jackson County Outside Agency United Way of Greater Kansas City
Geraldine and R A Barrows Foundation Jacob and Ella C. Loose Foundation
Backstrom Family Foundation Tom and Jan Kreamer
Jonathan and Sarah Baum Menorah Heritage Foundation
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas City PNC Foundation
Church of the Resurrection R.A. Long Foundation
Eleanor Schutz Fund Royals Charities
J.E. Dunn Construction John and Marny Sherman
Kauffman Foundation Matching Gifts Program Peter Sloan and Laura Curry Sloan
Kirk Foundation Sunderland Foundation
ArtsKC Regional Arts Council Mark and Mary Jorgenson
Arvest Bank Kansas City Chiefs Football Club
BlueScope Foundation Deborah Kass
Chief’s Ambassadors Charitable Foundation Mazuma Foundation
Estelle S. and Robert A. Long Ellis Foundation Tom and Jean McDonnell
Evergy Prime Health Foundation
GEHA Union Station
Aligned Rebecca James Bob and Ann Regnier
Deidre Anderson Samara Jones Charles and Lisa Schellhorn
Ashwani Family Foundation Jorgenson Family Foundation Paul and Katherine Schofer
Kent and Linda Bumgarner Judge Cleveland F. Moulton Christmas Poor Fund Trust Janice and Mark Schonwetter
Central Bank of the Midwest Judy Kirk Byron T. Schutz Foundation
Kevin Clark Alice Kitchen Linda Stevens
First Interstate Bank Pat and Beth McCown UMB Financial Corporation
Frances Gershon Freiden Klein Fund Tyler and Leigh Nottberg VMLY&R
Sandi and Ed Fried Torree Pederson Stephen Westbrooks
Hunt Family Foundation Charlie and Linda Pettijohn Wickham James Strategies & Solutions
IFF Ruth Stricklen Pullins  
Richard and Betty Athey Kate Favrow Ebony Reed
Irv Belzer and Sue McCord-Belzer Bernie Fromm Dennis and Palle Rilinger
Irene Bettinger Nicole Goodman Ginny Roady
Phil Bixby Barnett and Shirley Helzberg Angela & Daren Sleyster
Mark Bogina Samara Crawford Herrera Michaela Stemmons
Stanley and Margie Brand Hutch Humphreys Matthew Stevens
Michael and Linda Braude Terrie W Huntington Justin White
Jeff and Stevi Brick Larry Jacob Women’s Association of Southminster Presbyterian Church
Terry and Peggy Dunn Bill and Regina Kort Linda Word
Mark Aaron and Miriam Zimet-Aaron Karen Glickstein Jessica Nollett
David and Alice Achtenberg Doug Goldstein Rachel Nugent
Gretchen Adamson Mary Garcia Grant Matthew Oates
Ashwani Family Foundation Brent Grooms and Anissa Parra-Grooms Gary O’Banion
Azphalt Angelz Lacy Haden-Peaches Ryan Othmer
Linda Barber Scott Hall Suzanne and George Pagels
Carol and Tom Barnett Foundation Jill Harmon Laura and Edgar Palacios
Laurie Bayer Tom Scott and Betty Harris Chris and Misti Perkins
Sally E Beal Jill C Hartman Margo Quiriconi
Philip and Renata Beaudoin Judy Hellman Linda Rallo
Michael and Mollie Berenbom Robert Hill James Redler
Steve Berger Rachel Hodgson Kennade Reed
Helen Betts Dr. Julie Holland Patrick Reed
William and Anne Blessing Paula Holmquist David and Sandra Renz
Richard and Annette Bloch Family Foundation Fund Dr. Howard and Rosen Donor Advised Fund Harriet Rice
Gina Boucher Joan Israelite Kathryn Ricker
Brady Enterprises Jewish Community Foundation Dick and Sharyl Roady
Adam and Julie Braude Kay Johnson and Bill Koeingsdorf Anastasia Rock
Peter Braude Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation Jeffrey Rogers
Marla Brockman and John Goldberg Jeannine Kausch Brian and Christine Rorie
Phillip Brown and Melissa Rooker Anne Keil Ellen Rottersmann
Scott Burnett Janet Kelley Anne Russ
Mary Bush Sandy and Christine Kemper Stephanie Seger
Brandon Calloway Ericka King Melissa Shanks
Karla Carpenter Lisa Klein Arretta Shannon
Candace Cheatem Jonathan Klem Lynda and Robert Shapiro
Rita Cortes Ada Koch Judy Sherry
Elynn Cowden Schylon Kubic Ishmael Shumate
Chris Davis Renee Kyles Julie Silverman
Stephanie Dawson Brent Lager Joni P Siplon
Wendy Doyle Brenda L Lappin Trukechia Smith
Brittany Duncan Joanne & Bruce Levy Jolie Spatz
EPR General Shelley Loethen Linda Stevens
Joni Etherington Katie Lord Lisa Stewart
Barbara Flawn Roberta Jeanne Lyle Chris Stibbs
Moe Flynn-Hart Eric and Tonya Mater Mara Strayer
Gary and Janie Foltz Janet Mark and Frank Lipsman Je T’aime Taylor
Micole Franklin LaTasha McCall Terri Thompson
Kristy P Frazier Kim M McChesney Emily Thorpe
Liz Freeman Tricia McGhee Gail Vessels
Amy Gale Gail and Jill Meriweather Christy and Thomas Vopat
David Gale and Gina Kaiser Chris and Kate Migneron Family Joel and Marsha Voran
Elizabeth T Garver Julia and Paul Miller Dr. Jumesha Wade
Jerome Getz Melanie Miller Nina M Ward
Shahzad Ghafoor Sarah Miller Joni Wickham
Erika Gibbs Georgia Mueller Brandon Wikoff
Joanna and Lawrence Glaze Barbara Mueth Gene Willis
  John and Anne Mulvihill  
  Paula Neth  

EarlystART held 38 Family Engagement Events this year!

Save the Date for future EarlystART Events!

Financial Overview 2022

EarlystART ended 2021 in a positive financial position which was primarily driven by lower costs due to enrollment and staffing shortages as well as a significant grant awarded for the StartingEarly Special Initiative.

Looking ahead, 2023 will be a year of investing in expanded recruitment and professional development initiatives for early educators in our efforts to best serve students and families.

Revenue and Contributions





Special Initiatives Grant


Program Fees


United Way


Interest Income




PPP Loan Forgiveness




Program Expense/Community Benefit

Early Education




Community Services


Special Initiatives






Property & Depreciation