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Community First Cares Foundation and INK! Celebrate Success of $25,000 Grant Program During 2022-23 St. Johns County School Year

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – May 24, 2023 – The St. Johns County Education Foundation which operates as Investing in Kids (INK!), along with the Community First Cares Foundation, the charitable giving arm of Community First Credit Union, announces the success of its Champions for Children grants that funded innovative classroom projects in St. Johns County schools during the 2022-2023 school year. Community First Cares gave $25,000 to Champions for Children for the school year, all of which was distributed to local teachers. INK! and Community First Cares teams celebrated the program this week with visits to classrooms to see the impacts of the grants with students and teachers.

Building upon their longstanding partnership to provide educational support to St. Johns County public schools, INK! and the Community First Cares Foundation provided Champions for Children grant funding for classroom projects in the academic areas of science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM). Teachers in some of the most economically challenged schools in the St. Johns County School District received Champions for Children grant funding for projects posted on the DonorsChoose platform.

INK! and Community First funded classroom STEAM projects at nine schools across St. Johns County including Crookshank Elementary School, Osceola Elementary School, Otis Mason Elementary School, South Woods Elementary School, The Evelyn Hamblen Center, The Webster School, R.J. Murray Middle School, Sebastian Middle School, and St. Augustine High School. Champions for Children grants of $1,000 or $1,500 supported students and teachers in the development of key competencies of STEAM learning with the integration and application of content knowledge, skills, and academics. The projects typically would not qualify for traditional public or district funding.

“Community First Cares is proud to continue to support education and our teachers in St. Johns County,” said Missy Peters, executive director of the Community First Cares Foundation. “These grants have a significant impact on creative and innovative learning. The credit union was founded by educators for educators and we continue that commitment through partnerships like this across Northeast Florida.” 

Amy Brim, a gifted program teacher at South Woods Elementary School in Elkton received grant funding for her project. Brim’s students in kindergarten through fifth grades will benefit from STEAM and social skills development through the innovative project she named World Changers.

Brim explained that bright students may thrive on academics yet may struggle with real life skills. With materials funded by the grant, students have access to scholastically designed tools to help them persevere and demonstrate patience and persistence during difficult tasks that are designed to be challenging, engaging, and rigorous.

Funding was also awarded to Chasity Pitre, a fourth-grade teacher at Osceola Elementary School in St. Augustine for her project Wildcat Pride: STEAM Edition (Providing Rich Intervention Deepening Education). Project materials for the Wildcat Pride project include a 3D printer, hands-on learning games, engineering and building sets, and educational tools to provide students with learning experiences that foster collaboration, creativity, problem solving and communication. The skills build resiliency and a growth mindset where failures and mistakes are encouraged.

Donna Lueders, INK!’s executive director, says the nonprofit is fortunate to have local partners and business leaders in the community who strengthen the organization’s mission, programs, and services. “We are so appreciative of the partnership we have with Community First Cares Foundation and grateful for the Foundation’s support for educators and students in St. Johns County classrooms,” said Lueders.

About the Community First Cares Foundation - The Community First Cares Foundation, founded in 2013 by Community First Credit Union, is a non-profit 501(c)(3) community foundation that grants funds to improve the quality of life in North Florida.  The foundation supports activities to improve financial literacy, enhance the quality of our educational system, upgrade the health and welfare of our community and help underserved citizens. The Community First Cares Foundation makes contributions to non-profit organizations that serve the communities on the First Coast. Learn more at

About the St. Johns County Education Foundation, Inc. - The St. Johns County Education Foundation, Inc., a 501(c)3 education foundation, which operates as Investing in Kids (INK!). INK! promotes academic success for all St. Johns County public school students by providing innovative programs, teacher support and classroom resources to benefit more than 50,000 students and approximately 3,200 teachers. For more information, contact Donna Lueders at Donna.[email protected] or 904-547-7120. Visit the website at

Grant Recipient: Monique Burr Foundation

Monique Burr Foundation Teen Safety Matters Program

A new program, MBF Teen Safety Matters™, was recently launched by the Monique Burr Foundation for Children to prevent child abuse and bullying among teen-agers. 

Poverty is a silent epidemic in our schools, and many issues with attendance and academics are directly related to students not having clean clothes, shoes that fit, or the supplies they need to be successful in school. Students want to feel good about themselves when they come to school, and we want to help them have everything they need to learn. We could not have opened our first on-site classroom-sized Giving Closet without this funding and volunteer support.

Jennifer Smith, DCPS teacher and Founder of The Giving Closet Project.

Community First Cares

637 N Lee St. (P.O. Box 2600)
Jacksonville, FL 32232

Phone: (904) 371-8090

Email: [email protected]

Have a Special Project?

The Community First Cares Foundation supports projects that place a special emphasis on activities that improve financial literacy, enhance the quality of our educational system, upgrade the health and welfare of our community and help the underserved citizens improve their quality of life.  We offer funding to help our community partners implement these initiative right here on the First Coast.