Before and after of outdoor play space of QFA grantee Hamilton’s Learning Center.

Quality Facilities for All Initiative supports early childhood education facilities in East St. Louis, IL May 24, 2024

Before (above) and after (below) images from Uni-Pres Kindercottage.

IFF’s Quality Facilities for All Initiative (QFA) recently wrapped up the second cohort of its Grant Program, renovating center-based early childhood education (ECE) facilities in East St. Louis, IL. Across the East St. Louis metro area, QFA granted seven ECE providers approximately $50,000 each for projects enhancing infant and toddler facilities, including repainting, replacing flooring and windows, and renovating outdoor play spaces. This cohort’s completion represents the initiative’s second major milestone, following the completion of the QFA Grant Program’s first cohort in Chicago this past fall. 

QFA’s work with these seven grantees impacted nearly 80% of East St. Louis’ children aged 5 and under, enhancing facilities for 774 children out of a total population of 987. As of late-May 2024, the initiative renovated: three outdoor play areas; eight bathrooms; two lobbies; seven classrooms; and one entryway to add a ramp and improve that facility’s accessibility for children and families with physical disabilities.   

QFA was launched in the late 2010s as a Technical Assistance Program, assisting Illinois ECE providers with limited grant writing experience to apply for state funding for facility renovations. When the COVID-19 pandemic paused state funding in 2020, IFF’s program team pivoted and began developing QFA’s Grant Program to increase access to high-quality infant and toddler programs in communities of color that have experienced long-term disinvestment. Based on data from the Community Data Insights team’s 2019 report Access and Quality for Illinois Children, East St. Louis was identified as one of seven key locales in the state.  

In early spring 2022, the program team began outreach to communities in East St. Louis to encourage applications to the program. IFF’s Real Estate Solutions (RES) team began working with grantees in late fall 2022 to initiate budgeting and Facility Assessment work. Construction proceeded throughout 2023, with the RES team guiding grantees through the renovation process and coordinating between grantees and contractors. The team also provided consulting and funding to support universal access work for one of the grantees, helping construct a ramp to improve access to the facility’s front doors from its parking lot.  

The QFA team is grateful for everyone who contributed to the program across IFF’s departments and markets. 

For more, watch this video and visit QFA’s website.