Lechleiters Make Big Pre-K Play

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UWCI says the Lechleiters' commitments to the organization have topped $15 million. UWCI says the Lechleiters' commitments to the organization have topped $15 million.

Early childhood education efforts in central Indiana have landed a major boost. Outgoing Eli Lilly and Co. (NYSE: LLY) Chief Executive Officer John Lechleiter and his wife Sarah have announced a $5 million gift to United Way of Central Indiana, which will be matched by the Eli Lilly and Co. Foundation. The organization says a significant portion of the $10 million commitment will fund the expansion of high-quality early education centers in central Indiana and expand its Center for Working Families network. UWCI says the gift marks the largest individual donation in its 98-year history.

John Lechleiter is chairman of the United Way Worldwide Board of Directors.Sarah Lechleiter is a founding member of the organization's women's leadership giving group, Women United. Through personal and matching gifts from the Lilly Foundation, UWCI says the Lechleiters' commitments to the organization have topped $15 million.

UWCI says its goal is for 80 percent of the early education centers in central Indiana to be high quality. Since 2012, the organization says the number of high-quality centers has increased from 14 to 36 percent. It says the gift will also help give children from low-income families access to the centers through scholarships.

The Center for Working Families, which will also be supported by the gift, aims to help low-income families reach financial stability through a full range of services. The network currently consists of 10 sites. The organization hopes to use the Lechleiters' donation to open eight new network sites in central Indiana over the next five years.

The United Way says it will allocate $2 million of the gift to expand the capabilities of its organizations in Brazil, India, Spain and South Africa.

Late last month, John Lechleiter announced plans to retire from Lilly at the end of the year. Senior Vice President Dave Ricks will succeed Lechleiter as CEO January 1 and become board chair June 1.

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