Philanthropist's $5.5M donation helps open Newark preschool for low-income youth

By Jessica Mazzola | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
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on September 24, 2014

Philanthropist Brian Maher provided $5.5 million support to build a state of the art early child education facility operated by the Ironbound Community Corporation. Brian is pictured here for the September 22, 2014 Grand Opening of the Ironbound Early Learning Center with students in the 3 and 4 year old preschool program.

 

NEWARK — Thanks in large part to a $5.5 million donation from a local philanthropist, the Ironbound Early Learning Center opened the doors yesterday to its newly expanded preschool facility.

According to the Ironbound Community Corporation, which will operate the facility, the early learning center will house classes for 230 city children ages 0 to 5. The plan for the newly-renovated learning center on New York Avenue started in 2009, when the ICC received a $2 million federal Early Head Start grant.

The center cost $6.5 million to acquire and build, the ICC said. Funding came from a variety of public and private sources, including $1 million from the state’s Neighborhood Revitalization Tax Credit Program, $400,000 donations each from PSE&G and Valley National Bank, a $200,000 donation from TD Bank, and a $5.5 million gift from philanthropist M. Brian Maher.

Maher was the CEO of Maher Terminals, a successful container terminal management and development firm based at Port Elizabeth, which was founded by his father in 1946. Maher sold the company to Deutsche Bank and retired in 2007. According to the ICC, he also took a lead role in planning for the early learning center.

“This partnership shows that parents, nonprofits, business leaders, and local governments see early childhood education as essential preparation for school and life,” Maher said in a release about the school.

“Each and every child should have this early opportunity to succeed.”

The new school, which is aimed at serving low-income families, is free for Ironbound children to attend. The expanded facility serves 80 infants and toddlers and 150 preschool-aged children, the ICC said. Children are admitted to the free program based on need, the ICC said. There is currently a waiting list for the Early Head Start program, representatives said.

“As good as this facility looks, the real star is what happens inside,” ICC Executive Director Joseph Della Fave, said in the release.

“A well-trained professional staff, voluntary parental education, and comprehensive early learning…now Ironbound children have the full range of developmental and education resources they need.”

The ICC, which was founded in 1969 and has set up numerous education initiatives in the Ironbound District, says it serves about 1,000 people everyday. Located in the city’s East Ward, organizers say it focuses on serving the needs of the 50,000 residents in the Ironbound community.

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