PNC Bank, through its “Grow Up Great” philanthropic wing, will make sure Camden youth grow up smart.
The non-profit initiative will breathe new life into the academic prowess of Camden, N.J., youth when it opens the new library at the Early Learning Research academy during a ribbon-cutting at the center’s Cooper Street location Monday morning.
“We started the ‘Grow Up Great’ program in 2004, and we based our corporate commitment to early childhood education on the belief that all children should be exposed to great early learning,” said Jane Canfield, PNC’s senior vice president of Client and Consumer Relations. “Studies by educators throughout the years show children with access to adequate early learning succeed and learn much better than those that don’t.”
PNC employees volunteered their time and energy by donating new books, building shelves, laying down carpet and preparing reading corners. And this collective volunteering is rewarding in a number of ways, Canfield said.
“Early on, we thought about how to deploy volunteers, since we had a strong commitment to get our employees involved,” Canfield said. Volunteerism is a real important part. We’ve had so many organizations that need help and grants; but we’ve had stakeholders and caregivers tell us that volunteerism is actually more important.”
To coax employees into giving more of their time, Canfield said PNC instituted a program that grants employees 40 hours of vacation time if they volunteer on site.
“The other interesting part is we collect books throughout all our buildings and branches, and we say to the employees who can’t come out [and work at the site directly], that if they can donate a brand new book, we will give you one hour of Grow Up credit,” Canfield said of PNC’s policy of a one-to-one exchange of Grow Up credits for hours off. “The children in the centers are all economically challenged and underserved and deserve new books.”
PNC Financial Services Group started the Grow Up Great program and its Spanish-language initiative, Crezca con Éxito, in 2004. Since then, the $350 million, multi-year program has served almost two million youth. The Camden location will be the sixth library built through the Grow Up Great plan.
But why Camden?
“Dr. Gloria Santiago just opened the center in September 2011, and as she was building the site, she reached out to us to learn about ‘Grow Up Great,’” Canfield explained. “A member of our staff met with her staff and came away so impressed with her drive, enthusiasm and dedication to the children of Camden … we just knew we wanted to do something.
“Dr. Santiago energized the community,” Canfield continued. “We were very impressed with her and the work she’s doing. It seemed like the perfect match for us and our employees.”
The library at the Early Learning Research academy will be the second site in Camden in which PNC has chartered a library. And although PNC isn’t actively recruiting for sites, it will listen to proposals and does plan on building more libraries in the future.
“We don’t have a plan — a goal of building a certain number of libraries in a certain matter of time. This is more about building partnerships and relationships, and filling a particular need,” Canfield said. “And if it’s something they really need and want, and it’s something they have the space for and are interested in it, then we can work together.
“We’ve built six and are looking for opportunities,” Canfield continued. “We are really happy to provide colorful and save learning environments.”