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 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 Dehaemers Family Charitable Trust Jackson County Outside Agency
Alexis Kerr Francis Family Foundation Jackson County, Missouri
Ann Baum G. Kenneth and Ann Baum Fund Jacob and Ella C. Loose Foundation
Barbara Dehaemers Geraldine and R A Barrows Foundation Joseph Allen
Beth Allen Greater Kansas City Community Foundation MARC Mid-America Regional Council
Bill Dana Hall Family Foundation Oppenstein Brothers Foundation
Carrie J. Loose Trust Hallmark Corporate Foundation Sherman Family Foundation
Central Bank of Kansas City Health Forward Foundation Shumaker Family Foundation
Children’s Services Fund of Jackson County Irven E. & NeVada P. Linscomb Foundation Fund Stanley H. Durwood Foundation
Community Builders Fund Jackson County COMBAT UMB Bank
David Dehaemers Jr. United Way of Greater Kansas City



Backstrom Family Foundation

G. Kenneth and Ann Baum Fund

Oppenstein Brothers Foundation

Jason Backstrom

Greater Kansas City Community Foundation

PNC Foundation

Ann Baum

J.E. Dunn Construction

R and C Charitable Foundation

Jonathan Baum

Kauffman Foundation Matching Gifts Program

Royals Charities

Sarah Baum

Kids Win Missouri

Paul Schofer

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas City

Kirk Foundation

John Sherman

Carol Cartmill

Jan Kreamer

Marny Sherman

Church Mutual insurance Company

Tom Kreamer

Laura Curry Sloan

Clay County Children’s Services Fund

MARC Mid-America Regional Council

Sunderland Foundation

Eleanor Schutz Fund

Menorah Heritage Foundation

United Methodist Church of the Resurrection


Northland Community Foundation

ArtsKC Regional Arts Council Greater Kansas City Community Foundation Jackson County COMBAT
BlueScope Foundation Health Forward Foundation Mazuma Foundation
GEHA UICS Early Educational Sustainability Fund



Ryan Othmer

Deidre Anderson

Jackson County COMBAT

Laura Palacios

ArtsKC Regional Arts Council

Sly James

Torree Pederson

Arvest Bank

Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Kansas City

Charlie Pettijohn

Ashwani Family Foundation

Samara Jones

PNC Foundation

Alicia Beck

Jorgenson Family Foundation

Prime Health Foundation

Kent Bumgarner

Mark Jorgenson

Ruth Stricklen Pullins

Linda Bumgarner

Mary Jorgenson

R.A. Long Foundation

Byron T. Schutz Foundation

Judge Cleveland F. Moulton Christmas Poor Fund Trust

Ann Regnier

Central Bank of Kansas City

Kansas City Chiefs Football Club

Bob Regnier

Central Bank of the Midwest

Deborah Kass

Charles Schellhorn

Chief’s Ambassadors Charitable Foundation

Kauffman Foundation Matching Gifts Program

Lisa Schellhorn

Church Mutual insurance Company

Phadra Kee

Paul Schofer

Kevin Clark

Judy Kirk

Janice and Mark Schonwetter

Bill Dana

Alice Kitchen

Schwab Charitable

Jessica Easter

Kristy Ladd Culp

Laura Curry Sloan

Estelle S. and Robert A. Long Ellis Foundation

MARC Mid-America Regional Council

Linda Stevens

First Interstate Bank (formerly Great Western Bank)

Beth McCown

U.S. Toy

Frances Gershon Freiden Klein Fund

Pat McCown

UMB Bank

Edward Fried

Jean McDonnell

Urban Leaders Fellowship

Sandi Fried

Tom McDonnell


Greater Kansas City Community Foundation

National Utility Contractors Association Greater Kansas City Region

Stephen Westbrooks

Greater Kansas City LINKS

Leigh Nottberg

Wickham James

George Guastello

Tyler Nottberg

Joni Wickham

Hunt Family Foundation

Courtney Osborn

Lauren Ziegler


Betty Athey Terry Dunn Ebony Reed
Richard Athey Bernie Fromm Dennis Rilinger
Sarah Baum Barnett Helzberg Ginny Roady
Irv Belzer Shirley Helzberg Mariah Roady
Phil Bixby Terrie W Huntington Angela Sleyster
Stanley Brand Larry Jacob Linda Stevens
Linda Braude

Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Kansas City

Matthew Stevens
Michael Braude Bill Kort Justin White
Stevi Brick Regina Kort Linda Word
Peggy Dunn

Mark Aaron

Karen Glickstein

Paula Neth

Alice Jacks Achtenberg

John Goldberg M.D.

Network For Good

David J Achtenberg

Doug Goldstein

Jessica Nollett

Gretchen Adamson

Nicole Goodman

Rachel Nugent

American Century Investments Foundation

Mary Garcia Grant

Matthew Oates

Deidre Anderson

Greater Kansas City Community Foundation

Gary O’Banion

Azphalt Angelz

Lacy Haden-Peaches

Ryan Othmer

Linda Barber

Scott Hall

George Pagels

Laurie Bayer

Hallmark Corporate Foundation

Suzanne Pagels

Sally E Beal

Phyllis Hardwick

Laura Palacios

Philip Beaudoin

Jill Harmon

Anissa A Parra-Grooms

Renata J Beaudoin

Betty Harris

Jason Parson

Benevity Community Impact Fund

Jill C Hartman

Chris Perkins

Mollie Berenbom

Judy Hellman


Steve Berger

Robert Hill

Margo Quiriconi

Irene Bettinger

Rachel Hodgson

Linda Rallo

Helen Betts

Julie Holland

James Redler

Blackbaud Giving Fund

Paula Holmquist

Kennade Reed

Anne Blessing

Matrika Hornsby

Patrick Reed

Gins Boucher

Vernon Howard

David Renz

Brady Enterprises

Hutch Humphreys

Harriet Rice

Julie Braude

Joan Israelite

Richard and Annette Bloch Family Foundation Fund

Linda Braude

Rebecca James

Kathryn Ricker

Michael Braude

Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Kansas City

Dick Roady

Peter Braude

Kay Johnson

Mariah Roady

Phillip Brown

Gina Kaiser

Sharyl Roady

Kent Bumgarner

Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey

Anastasia Rock

Linda Bumgarner

Kansas City Young Matrons

Jeffrey Rogers

Scott Burnett

Jeannine Kausch

Brian and Christine Rorie

Mary Bush

Anne Keil

Ellen Rottersmann

Brandon Calloway

Janet Kelley

Anne Russ

Carol and Tom Barnett Foundation

Christine Kemper

Samuel U. Rodgers Health Center, Inc

Karla Carpenter

Ericka King

Stephanie Seger

Candace Cheatem

Lisa Klein

Melissa Shanks

Bonita Conley

Jonathan Klem

Arretta Shannon

Rita Cortes

Ada Koch

Robert Shapiro

Elynn Cowden

Bill Kort

Judy Sherry

Samara Crawford Herrera

Schylon Kubic

Ishmael Shumate

Samiyah Crawford

Renee Kyles

Julie Silverman

Ravi Dasari

Brent Lager

Joni P Siplon

Christopher Davis

Brenda L Lappin

Peter Sloan

Stephanie Dawson

Joanne & Bruce Levy

Trukechia Smith

Melissa Donoho

Frank Lipsman

Jolie Spatz

Wendy Doyle

Shelley Loethen

Michaela Stemmons

Dr. Howard and Rosanne Rosen Donor Advised Fund

Katie Lord

Linda Stevens

Brittany Duncan

Roberta Jeanne Lyle

Phyllis A Stevens

EPR Properties

Linda Lyon

Lisa Stewart

Joni Etherington

Mike Lyon

Chris Stibbs

Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation

Kim M McChesney

Mara Strayer

Kate Favrow

Nina M Ward

Je T’aime Taylor

Barbara Flawn

Tonya Mater

The American Online Giving Foundation

Moe Flynn-Hart

LaTasha McCall

The United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania

Janie Foltz

Tricia McGhee

Terri Thompson

Micole Franklin

Vernita McMurtrey

Emily Thorpe

Kristy P Frazier

Gail Meriweather

Gail Vessels

Liz Freeman

Jill Meriweather


Amy Gale

Chris Migneron

Christy Vopat

Elizabeth T Garver

Kate Migneron

Joel B. Voran

Jerome Getz

Julia Brown Miller

Jumesha Wade

Shahzad Ghafoor

Melanie Miller

Joni Wickham

Erika Gibbs

Sarah Miller

Brandon Wikoff

Givinga Foundation

Georgia Mueller

Ivera Williams

Cydney Glaze

Barbara Mueth

Gene Willis

Joanna M Glaze

Anne Mulvihill

Women’s Association of Southminster Presbyterian Church

Lawrence Glaze

John Mulvihill

Miriam Zimet-Aaron

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, 2022 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