Since returning to metro Detroit in 2010, Ric DeVore, in his capacity as PNC Bank’s regional president for Detroit and Southeast Michigan, has been on a mission to help fund and support innovative early childhood education programs and initiatives. While most banks and corporations have philanthropic endeavors, some of which fund and/or sponsor education programs, perhaps no bank in America, along with its respective foundation, funds and implements early childhood education programs with the depth, frequency and veracity of PNC Bank and the PNC Foundation.
Under DeVore’s leadership, PNC Bank and the local PNC Foundation, recently launched Tinkering for Tots. The program is a unique three-year initiative with an investment price tag of $210,000. In partnership with The Henry Ford in Dearborn, Mich., the year-round program will provide more than 1,000 pre-K and kindergarten students from 28 Detroit Public Schools Community District (DPSCD) schools opportunities to visit The Henry Ford. During such visits, “young developing minds” will be exposed to activities and events connected to science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics (S.T.E.A.M.).
“Tinkering for Tots was created to encourage creativity and a thirst for learning in preschool children,” said DeVore, who also chairs PNC’s local foundation. “At PNC, we believe that empowering our youngest minds is the best investment a bank can make. What we do in early childhood education is the cornerstone of our philanthropy.”
Another early childhood education initiative endorsed by DeVore is Say & Play With Words (Grow Smart From The Start). The Detroit program, led by the National Center for Families Learning (NCFL). features partnerships with the PNC Foundation, Skillman Foundation and Max M. & Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation. The two-year, $1.5 million initiative impacts about 430 participants, and is created to build preschool children’s vocabularies in two Detroit communities: Southwest Detroit and Brightmoor.
“Words unlock success for children,” said DeVore. “The more words they hear before kindergarten, the more success they often achieve. The link between ‘words’ and learning is what motivated PNC to begin emphasizing developing children’s vocabularies as part of our Grow Up Great early childhood education initiative.”
Grow Up Great is PNC and the PNC Foundation’s signature initiative that addresses early childhood education. The program is now in its 14th year. Nationally, the $350 million program has prepared children up to age 5 for success in school and life. Since Grow Up Great’s local inception in 2010 with a $2.1 million investment by PNC, more than 28 DPSCD classrooms have been impacted, with approximately 700 preschoolers participating in various learning activities. Grow Up Great links such partners as Detroit Public Schools Foundation, DPSCD, Cranbrook Institute of Science, Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts, and Detroit Parent Network.
Another unique PNC Foundation program in Southeast Michigan is DonorsChoose.org, which is designed to help pre-K teachers obtain needed resources to better educate young people. In essence, the website presents a platform from which teachers can request donations to support projects, supplies, books and other tools and materials needed to improve early childhood classroom-learning experiences. The PNC Foundation will fund every public, charter and Head Start preschool posted on the crowdfunding platform up to a certain limit and date.
DeVore admitted that years ago, PNC was similar to many other banks and corporations, where philanthropic endeavors were all over the map. While noble in their efforts, PNC and the PNC Foundation, according to DeVore, maybe had too many partners, and as a result wasn’t’ as impactful as possible. Understanding the need to create a more focused approach to philanthropic activities, PNC consulted its workforce.
“The bank conducted a survey with its employees and presented some ideas as to what should be the direction of our philanthropy,” recalled DeVore. “As a result, early childhood education pretty much leaped off the survey findings.”
The overall survey findings pleased DeVore.
“How to improve early childhood education is a great passion of mine,” said DeVore, whose son is a teacher. “And the fact that PNC employees saw it as their passion has made it so cool to work here.”
A native of metro Detroit, DeVore, along with his wife, Donna, also a metro Detroiter, returned home eight years ago after Ric DeVore served in executive positions with PNC in Cleveland, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, as well as Pittsburgh, PNC’s corporate home. Today, DeVore remains busy as Detroit and Southeast Michigan’s top PNC Bank and foundation executive. Yet, he makes time to lead PNC’s workforce by example, as he volunteers each month reading to preschoolers at Schulze Elementary and Middle School on the city’s west side. This is DeVore’s eighth year reading to the young people.
And, when it comes to volunteerism, DeVore is not alone. PNC, said DeVore, gives its employees up to 40 hours a year of paid time off to volunteer in early childhood programs.
“It’s one thing to write a check, but it’s another thing to actually write a check and get involved by donating your time,” said DeVore, who holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Michigan, and an MBA from Wayne State University. “It’s important to see and experience what’s behind the financial horsepower. In other words, it actually resonates when you get involved, versus just seeing a check written from a distance.”