Porter-Leath opens Early Childhood Support Center, merges with Books from Birth

With the mission of assisting at-risk children and families of Shelby County, Porter-Leath has consolidated many of its administrative functions into a new Early Childhood Development Center in Southeast Memphis.

The organization also recently announced a merger with Books from Birth, which mails free books to children across Shelby County.

Porter-Leath has grown its preschool program from 900 students in 2013 to more than 6,000 today.

“With that growth, along the way we’ve wanted to make sure all of our preschool children were enrolled in Books from Birth,” said Hughes. “That way we know they are getting the literacy materials that they need at home.”

Books from Birth, an affiliate of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, provides age-appropriate books for nearly 70 percent of Shelby County children under age five. The 46,000-plus children enrolled in the program will not see a disruption in service.

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“We also want to make sure we are using our really wide-ranging early childhood network, including our community partners, so they can enroll all of their children,” said Hughes. “Our next goal is to have 50,000 children enrolled in the program.”

Books from Birth executive director Jamila Wicks will stay on as program director and other Books from Birth staff will remain as part of the Porter-Leath development team.

Late September, Porter-Leath opened its new 30,000-square-foot Early Childhood Support Center at 3400 Prescott Road, allowing the unification of more than 100 staff members that had previously worked from five different locations. Books from Birth’s operations will be housed at the new facility.

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“Administratively, Books from Birth will enjoy the support of our finance team, HR team, performance and quality improvement team, IT services, and development department,” said Hughes. “Now we will all be one team under one roof.”

The building for the new Early Childhood Support Center, which is located near to the Memphis International Airport, was formerly used as a FedEx training facility. After purchasing the property late last year, extensive renovations were completed over the past four months by Walker & Associates.

“This new center will help to ensure that we are supporting all of our early childhood programs that serve more than 50,000 children in Shelby County every year,” Hughes said.

Read more articles by Michael Waddell.

Michael Waddell is a native Memphian who returned to Memphis several years ago after working for nearly a decade in San Diego and St. Petersburg, Fla., as a writer, editor and graphic designer. His work over the past few years has been featured in The Memphis Daily News, Memphis Bioworks Magazine, Memphis Crossroads, the New York Daily News and the New York Post. Contact Michael.
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