GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — $11 million awarded to 34 Kent County services will help children be ready for school by age 5.

The new round of funding from the Ready by Five Early Childhood Millage was approved for Kent County organizations in September and is now being dispersed.

This round of funding includes a new child care technology system helping parents find information in real time about available child care spots that fit their family’s needs. From playgroups to reading kits, car seat safety, postpartum, safe sleeping and more, parents can sign their child up for programs help made possible by Kent County taxpayers.

“Really for expectant parents up through kindergarten readiness,” said Jennifer Headly-Nordman, president of the organization that administers the millage, First Steps Kent.

The millions of dollars in funding are being distributed to 18 selected community organizations running 34 programs that will be funded through September 2024. 

Headly-Nordman said the millage is greatly needed to make an impact in kids’ lives.

“Right now, we are spending time making sure that we are keeping pace with the needs here in our community and also that we are talking to parents to see what other services or programs might not be currently supported that we want to consider in the future,” said Headly-Nordman.

Programs will focus on five areas: parent education and support, early learning and healthy development programs, outreach and navigation.

Kent ISD Bright Beginnings is one of the organizations selected receiving more than $750,000. 

“We are using the funds for the home visiting as well as for our playgroups,” says Karen Lezan, Supervisor and Coordinator at Kent ISD Bright Beginnings. 

The millage provides for a larger number of programs.

“Kids are learning about routines, taking turns, sitting down maybe for circle time, having a snack, and through the millage dollars we are able to give a child a book at every playgroup to take home as well,” said Lezan.

The majority of the costs are also covered. 

“We do not have any barriers as far as income or insurance, or anything like that. So, it’s universal to any family, any child of any developmental level,” Lezan said. 

Parents can go to First Steps Kent, click on the for family’s tab, then scroll down to the service finder

“We can help connect you to the services you need for you and your child,” Headly-Nordman said. 

“As the organization that oversees the Ready by Five process, we are so grateful to the residents of Kent County that they’ve continued to support the early childhood millage. We have information and data to show that the investment that you’re making is working,” Headly-Nordman said.