Consumers Energy Foundation Grant Strengthens 5toONE

A first-of-its-kind early childhood development network that continues to expand across the 5-county region received another major boost from the Consumers Energy Foundation.

David Mengebier, Senior Vice President of Consumers Energy and President of the Consumers Energy Foundation, recently presented the Great Start Collaborative Traverse Bay a $60,000 to support continued implementation of its 5toONE early childhood development project in Northwest Michigan. It’s the second grant in a three-year commitment to support the local 5toONE initiative, and was presented to local representatives at the 5toONE Center on the campus of Northwestern Michigan College in Traverse City.

“We are committed to building opportunities for the next generation of Michigan’s children. 5toONE does great work to create those opportunities for the youngest children in the Northern Michigan communities we serve,” Mengebier said. “We are pleased that our foundation’s contribution will help open new Neighborhood Centers and make a positive impact on families.”

“This support from the Consumers Energy Foundation is making it possible for us to expand into new communities and continue to build sustainability into existing 5toONE Neighborhood Centers and activities,” said Mary Manner, coordinator of the local Great Start Collaborative.

5toONE is a long-term project of the Great Start Collaborative to identify the challenges and opportunities of raising young children in rural northwest Michigan, and to develop a system of resources to respond to the needs and interests of all parents across the region as they prepare their children for school and life. Key to the success of 5toONE is continuous information-gathering from parents, caregivers, community members and early childhood stakeholders, and parent involvement at every level of decision-making.

Local Great Start officials noted that the Consumers Energy has been a partner in this project since its inception. In 2012-13, a major gift supported the data analysis and design process that helped develop the 5toONE model. It’s uniquely designed to function in rural communities, using parent input and the resources at hand within a community to first develop and enhance the local system of resources, then connect communities and resources together in a regional network.

The 5toONE model has also gained the attention of the international business community, as it received the 2015 Regional Innovation Award from the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives (ACCE).

In early 2015, Consumers Energy also made a $50,000 grant to assist with the early implementation of 5toONE, which opened its first Neighborhood Center in the village of Lake Ann in Benzie County. There are now four 5toONE Neighborhood Centers operating in the area, with more in the planning stages.

Manner said the grant will help start up additional Neighborhood Centers with parent advisory groups, conduct parenting workshops and purchase education materials for the centers.

“Consumers Energy has been a major supporting partner in the development and implementation of 5toONE and we are grateful for its continued support and generous funding,” Manner said.