PNC Foundation, Skillman Foundation and Max M. & Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation Invest $1.5 Million to Close Word Gap in Detroit Neighborhoods

“Say & Play with Words” led by National Center for Families Learning
will serve hundreds of families in Brightmoor and Southwest Detroit

DETROIT–(BUSINESS WIRE)–The PNC Foundation, Skillman Foundation and Max M. & Marjorie S. Fisher
Foundation today announced a $1.5 million, two-year collaboration to
build preschool children’s vocabularies in two Detroit neighborhoods. Say
& Play with Words
(Hablen y Jueguen con Palabras) will
infuse vocabulary and literacy strategies and family service learning
into a powerful educational model for families in the Southwest Detroit
and Brightmoor neighborhoods.

Research shows that by age 3, children from low-income families are
hearing 30 million fewer words than those from higher-income families.
Research shows that vocabulary skills advance children’s cognitive and
social learning and a lag in vocabulary development puts children at an
academic disadvantage before they start kindergarten. Studies also have
indicated vocabulary skills are important in predicting reading
development over time.

“Words unlock success for children,” said Ric DeVore, PNC regional
president for Detroit and Southeast Michigan. “The more words they hear
before kindergarten, the more success they often achieve. The link
between ‘words’ and learning motivated PNC to begin emphasizing
developing children’s vocabularies as part of PNC Grow Up Great,
our early childhood education initiative.”

Detroit is one of 10 cities PNC has selected for its $10 million pilot
program to raise awareness and improve vocabulary for low- and
moderate-income children.

The National Center for Families Learning (NCFL), a highly respected
national family literacy organization, is leading the project
programming with community partners and providing their expertise in
literacy and family service learning. Southwest Solutions and
Development Centers will serve several hundred children and families
with programming and support of the overall initiative. Leaders from
Congress of Communities and Brightmoor Alliance will advise the
collaborative’s efforts to reach as many community members as possible.

“We know talking to our children is one of the most effective ways to
help them develop their vocabularies,” said Sharon Darling, president
and founder, National Center for Families Learning. “This initiative
couples an approach that resonates with young learners—teaching
vocabulary in a real-world, active context—with family service learning,
a cutting-edge strategy for families learning together.”

Program components will include:

  • A family component to engage approximately 150 Southwest Detroit and
    Brightmoor families in twice-weekly activities that will encourage
    them to take an active role in building their children’s vocabularies.
  • An outreach program that will engage community leaders to maintain
    word- and print-rich environments in the two communities. Activities
    will include vocabulary-themed family events in public venues such as
    parks and libraries and Word of the Week activities in
    childcare centers, salons, grocery stores, churches, etc.
  • A multi-language, multi-media campaign in early spring 2016 designed
    to raise parents’/caregivers’ awareness of the importance of a
    vocabulary-rich environment to young children’s development.

“Our goal is to improve the wellbeing of Detroit’s children,” said Tonya
Allen, president and CEO, Skillman Foundation. “In Brightmoor and
Southwest Detroit, young children should receive every opportunity to
grow their natural talents with programs such as this one. Kids matter

Throughout all aspects of Say & Play with Words, Southwest
Detroit and Brightmoor parents and community leaders will be engaged in
the design and implementation of program elements, including the
awareness campaign and community events, to support the efforts of
neighborhood residents as they work to transform learning for their
children and improve their neighborhoods.

“Words matter,” said Douglas Bitonti Stewart, executive director, Max M.
and Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation. “We know that investing in early
literacy positively impacts not only the kids, but their families, their
neighborhoods and our region. This is clearly an investment that will
both pay long-term economic dividends and begin to close the opportunity
gap in Southwest Detroit and Brightmoor communities.”

About the Organizations

PNC Foundation

The PNC Foundation, which receives its principal funding from The PNC
Financial Services Group (,
actively supports organizations that provide services for the benefit of
communities in which it has a significant presence. The foundation
focuses its philanthropic mission on early childhood education and
community and economic development, which includes the arts and culture.
Through Grow Up Great, its signature cause that began in 2004, PNC has
created a $350 million, multi-year initiative to help prepare children
from birth to age 5 for success in school and life.

The Skillman Foundation

Created in 1960, the Skillman Foundation is a private philanthropy
committed to improving meaningful graduation rates in the Detroit
region, so kids are ready for college, career and life. The Foundation
has assets of nearly a half-billion dollars, with an annual grants
budget of $17 million. The Foundation works to achieve its goal by
investing in community leadership, neighborhoods, safety initiatives,
high-quality schools, social innovation and youth development. Visit

Max M. & Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation

The Max M. & Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation was formed in 1955 and
endowed following the death of Mr. Fisher in 2005. The Foundation’s core
philosophy is grounded in the beliefs of its founders and the family’s
shared Jewish values that life’s purpose is found in service to others.

The mission of the Max M. & Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation is to enrich
humanity by strengthening and empowering children and families in need.
While remaining flexible in our approach we give priority to: Providing
for the needs of and ensuring the future of the Jewish people and to
respecting our legacy and commitment to the Detroit community. Areas of
critical importance include education, arts & culture and health with
particular attention to HIV/AIDS. During the course of the last eight
years, the Foundation has placed in motion over $100 million on three
continents. For more information, please visit

National Center for Families Learning

The National Center for Families Learning (NCFL) is a national nonprofit
organization dedicated to creating innovative programs and strategies
that support families learning together, literacy and family engagement
in education. From the classroom to the community to the digital
frontier, NCFL collaborates with educators, advocates and policy-makers
to help families construct hotspots for learning wherever they go. For
more information on NCFL, visit

Southwest Solutions

For more than 40 years, Southwest Solutions has pursued its mission to
help build a stronger and healthier community in southwest Detroit and
beyond. The nonprofit organization provides over 50 programs and
partnerships in the areas of human development, economic development and
resident engagement. These three areas together form a comprehensive
neighborhood revitalization strategic effort that helps more than 25,000
a year. For more information, please visit

Development Centers

Development Centers is one of Detroit’s preeminent behavioral healthcare
providers. For over 30 years, we have reached out to children and adults
with mental health needs, striving to make their lives safer, healthier
and happier. Programs and services are designed to nurture children at
risk, strengthen families in crisis and empower individuals to achieve
their highest potential. Expertise in delivering mental health, early
childhood education and employment services allows Development Centers
to offer innovative and comprehensive programming to over 11,000
community members each year. For more information, please visit


EarlyWorks LLC
Nicole de Beaufort, 612-353-7895
Melissa Vander Laan, 248-219-1415
Robert J. Darmanin, 586-258-8513