In 1876 Porter-Leath opened its doors as an orphanage to serve the needs of abandoned children and those whose parents died from malaria. Over the years, foster care and social security replaced the need for orphanages to house children on a permanent basis, and the mission of Porter-Leath evolved to that of early childhood development, with focus on pre-school readiness for kindergarten by providing a safe, nurturing environment for at-risk children.
Porter-Leath serves as the sole Early Head Start operator for Shelby County, and its programs are comprehensive. Their long-term goals are to break the cycles of poverty through proven early childhood education and by providing support to families in a number of ways: prenatal care, health care for infants and toddlers, educating mothers about child care and nurturing, and providing “wrap-around services” for children and families. Books from Birth is now funded and administered by Porter-Leath.
For the past nine years, Porter-Leath has been the recipient of a Grace-St. Luke’s Community Support Grant. For those wishing to volunteer their time at Porter-Leath, opportunities at several locations across the city include reading in classrooms, playing with blocks, or just spending one-on-one time with a child that needs extra help learning their letters, numbers, shapes, and colors. Parishioners can choose to volunteer individually or in a group Monday through Friday between 9 and 11 a.m.