The Portland Foundation has received another grant to develop an early learning center.

Its total comes to seven figures.

Doug Inman, executive director of The Portland Foundation, announced Wednesday that Indiana United Ways awarded a $1.5 million capital project grant toward establishing Jay County Early Learning Center.

The foundation also honored a local nonprofit organization during its annual meeting Wednesday.

The Portland Foundation purchased the former Judge Haynes Elementary School building in Portland for $35,000 in 2022. Last year, at its annual meeting, the foundation announced it had entered into a five-year agreement with Westminster Preschool of Marion to operate the learning center, which is estimated to serve approximately 150 newborns through 5-year-old children. (Westminster Preschool has hired a director for the Jay County center, and they are currently undergoing training at the Marion campus.)

Construction has been ongoing at the facility, which is expected to open in August. United Way of Jay County’s membership in Indiana United Ways helped facilitate the grant application.

“Connecting every child in Jay County to opportunity is a core part of our mission at United Way of Jay County, and we’re delighted to be part of the team that is bringing this 150-seat learning center to life,” said United Way of Jay County executive director Jane Ann Runyon in a press release.

According to Early Learning Indiana’s Closing the Gap 2023 Update, only 5.5% of children in Jay County are currently served by a high-quality early education program.

“Closing this gap, especially for the more than 50% of children under age 6 whose parents struggle to meet essential needs, is critical to ensuring that all children can thrive,” said Runyon in the press release.

Jay County Early Learning Center has already benefited from other grants. Westminster Preschool received $684,000 from Indiana Family and Social Services Administration for building renovation, playground equipment and supplies. The Portland Foundation received $500,000 — $432,500 for renovation, equipment and supplies and $67,500 for IU Health Jay's Healthy Beginnings program — from Early Learning Indiana, $291,000 from the first round of the Indiana Regional Economic Acceleration and Development Initiative (READI) and $50,000 from the Ball Brothers Association of Muncie for the project.

Because of the aforementioned grants and the $1.5 million from Indiana United Ways, the foundation’s financial commitment in the project has been reduced from $4 million to $1 million.

“The $1 million is still the largest project investment the foundation has ever made,” Inman said, noting its financial ability to back such a project is made possible by unrestricted endowment funds.

“The foundation is committed to serving the children and families of Jay County by investing in the children, and the Jay County Early Learning Center will serve generations of those children,” said Inman.

A generation is defined at about 25 years. Putting it into perspective, Inman said, that would translate to the foundation’s commitment of its own funds now breaking down to about $40,000 annually.

In the last year, The Portland Foundation:

•Hired Transform Consulting Group of Wabash to conduct a study gauging the need for an early learning center in southwest Jay County

•Submitted a $3.9 million concept paper to Lilly Endowment that would involve constructing a learning center in Dunkirk — it would be added onto West Jay Community Center — and to add back the west wing of Jay County Early Learning Center for a Portland Head Start. If approved, the foundation would have the opportunity to submit an in-depth proposal for the project.

•Submitted a $4.9 million regional proposal in partnership with Blackford and Grant County foundations for Connect East Central Indiana, an initiative aimed at preparing youth for local careers in which they can thrive, said Inman. (Jay County’s benefit from the project would involve John Jay Center for Learning.)

The GIFT initiative is also offering a matching grant opportunity to build unrestricted endowments, noted Inman. The Portland Foundation must receive $375,000 in unrestricted endowment gifts to receive a $750,000 match.

To incentivize donors, the foundation offered a third matching dollar (3:1) for gifts of $1,250 or more. About $100,000 of the foundation’s funding has been matched for this project, noted Inman, and it resulted in 17 new unrestricted endowment funds.

The foundation still needs an additional $177,546 to complete the Lilly Endowment matching opportunity.

Also, Inman reported the foundation’s assets totaled $47.1 million at the end of 2023, up from the previous year of $41.5 million and down from 2021’s record high of $50.7 million.

The Portland Foundation had 21 new endowments last year, bringing its total to 444. It received $3 million in gifts and granted $1.6 million in grants and scholarships.

The foundation has given more than $13 million in grants and more than $8 million in scholarships since its founding in 1951.

Inman also noted The Portland Foundation and The Dunkirk Foundation merged in 2023. The merger added 14 endowments and $2 million in assets to The Portland Foundation.