60th Anniversary - Children First

60th Anniversary

2021 marks the 60th Anniversary of Children First!

In 1961, the Junior League of Sarasota founded the Sarasota Day Nursery with a mission to prepare children from low-income families for Kindergarten. In 1994, the agency became Sarasota County’s exclusive provider of Head Start services. With Early Head Start services added in 1998 and a name change to Children First in 2000, our organization grew rapidly, driven by the high demand for quality early childhood education and family strengthening programs within economically vulnerable communities.

As the exclusive provider of Head Start and Early Head Start services for Sarasota County, Children First has grown to serve hundreds of children and their families annually at 15 locations annually throughout Sarasota County with campuses in Venice, North Port, and Sarasota. As a four-time designated Head Start Program of Excellence, our agency ranks in the top 1% of over 1,800 programs nationwide. Through our award-winning Families First Institute, comprehensive curricula is offered at no cost to all community members.

Children First’s founding principles are woven throughout our history, continuing the vision of providing children and families with opportunities for success, regardless of circumstance at birth or in life.

Incorporated as Sarasota Day Nursery by Junior League of Sarasota. Tuition was one dollar per day.

Children First awarded the status of Head Start grantee for Sarasota County serving approximately 180 preschoolers

Children First launched the Families First Institute with the First Nurturing Dads Class. Over 2,100 men have graduated to date from this program

Agency name change from Sarasota Day Nursery to Children First

Merged with historical Helen R. Payne Center formerly “Newtown Day Nursery”

Celebrated the opening of Children First campus in North Port

Partnered with Sarasota County School District’s Teen Parent Program (Cyesis)

Began serving children and families at the Suncoast Foundation Venice campus

Main campus site dedicated as the Dr. Elaine Marieb Early Learning Center with a gift commitment of $1 million from Dr. Marieb

Children First celebrates 60 years of providing high-quality services to children and families living at-risk as CEO Philip Tavill celebrates his 25th anniversary

The 60th Anniversary Co-Chairs and Committee members are comprised of past and present board members, volunteers, and supporters who have dedicated themselves to celebrating and supporting Children First throughout the year. The Committee members will serve as agency ambassadors in elevating the visibility of and engagement with the Children First mission, including raising critical funds in support of comprehensive services for pregnant women, children and families living at-risk.