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Early Childhood Innovation Grant to Help Local First Steps Organizations Assist Hard-to-Reach Families from All Economic Backgrounds



Press Release

Berkeley County First Steps, together with Charleston County First Steps and Dorchester County First Steps, has received a $198,000 grant from South Carolina First Steps to support the three agencies’ Tri-County Play Collaborative initiative over a period of two years.

The three agencies currently partner together to serve the Charleston tri-county area through a collaboration under the name of Tri-County First Steps, helping families of young children prepare them for school and a lifetime of health and success.

Tri-County Play Collaborative, a recent initiative of the group, brings together Tri-County First Steps with the Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry, local libraries, and cultural institutions to offer primary caregivers of young tri-county children from every socio-economic background free or low-cost access to the Lowcountry’s world-class museums, theatres, aquarium, historical sites, and nature centers. The initiative’s goal is to ensure that young children of the tri-county’s hardest-to-reach families have equal opportunities to benefit from arts, cultural, and nature-based learning activities.

Adrienne Troy-Frazier, executive director of Berkeley County First Steps, is very grateful for the grant. “It will allow us to engage young children and their caregivers in imaginative and exciting ways,” she says, noting her appreciation for South Carolina First Steps as a generous and steadfast partner in assisting Tri-County Play Collaborative. “We believe that art, when made accessible and relatable, has the power to heal and strengthen families in our community. This funding comes at a time when it’s most needed.”

Charleston County First Steps Executive Director Sherry Gilliam agrees. “Through this grant, we can effectively support young children’s early learning and development with increased emphasis on improving their social-emotional development and mental health,” she says.

Crystal Campbell, executive director of Dorchester County First Steps, also expects the grant to strongly impact young children across her county. “Dolly Parton has said that if you want the rainbow, you’ve got to put up with the rain,” she says. “During this pandemic, Dorchester County First Steps has experienced a great deal of ‘rain’ as we worked to prepare children ages birth to five for school success. This grant is definitely a rainbow. It will enable us to join forces even more powerfully with Berkeley County First Steps and Charleston County First Steps to make sure all our families have the opportunity to experience the rich cultural activities and events in our region like never before.”

A website for the initiative is currently under development. The public is invited to engage with the Tri-County Play Collaborative on Facebook at and Instagram at

South Carolina First Steps’ Early Childhood Innovation Grants are designed to increase the state’s investment in early childhood through public-private partnerships. More than $100,000 of the funding comes from private philanthropy and the state income tax checkoff program, which allows taxpayers to contribute to First Steps on their state income tax form.

“Located in every county of the state, First Steps nonprofits work in the heart of our communities. They understand the needs of local families, and they know what works when it comes to supporting young children,” says Georgia Mjartan, executive director of South Carolina First Steps. “These grants recognize, and support, the creative ideas that are making a real impact.”

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