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ARC State Program Manager Comments

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The Learning Lamp

Total Qualifying Score: 3
County (ARC Region): Yes
State (ARC Region): Yes
Q3. IRS Status: Nonprofit – 2
Q4. Parent Entity: No – 1
Q5. 2 or More Full-Time Employees : Yes (as of 12/31/2019)
Q7. Budget Level: Above $3 million or below $100,000 – 0 (Last Fiscal Year Actual Income)
Q8. Restricted Reserves: Yes – 0
Q9. CARES Act Funding: Yes – 0
Q13. Participation by Executive: Yes


The Learning Lamp
Johnstown, Cambria County, Pennsylvania 15904

County (ARC Region) Cambria
State (ARC Region) Pennsylvania


Q1. Mission:

The mission of The Learning Lamp is to engage all children in the support they need to succeed. 

Q2. How organization aligns with ARC’s Plan & Goals:

The Learning Lamp, a nonprofit organization based in Johnstown, PA, serves a number of Pennsylvania’s Appalachian region counties including Cambria, Somerset, Bedford, Blair, Westmoreland, and Fayette. Focused on providing quality early learning programs for ages birth to five and academic support for children with behavioral and developmental challenges in the K-12 setting, the organization’s work addresses the following ARC strategic goals:
• Invest in entrepreneurial and business development strategies that strengthen Appalachia’s economy; and
• Increase the education, knowledge, skills, and health of residents to work and succeed in Appalachia.

The Learning Lamp provides quality child care for more than a thousand children ages birth-13. With 20 locations across the west-central region of Pennsylvania, it is an important workforce support for employers, including both Conemaugh Health System in Johnstown and Highlands Hospital in Connellsville. Without child care, thousands of parents could not go to work, leaving jobs unfilled and further crippling the region’s ability to make economic gains. When other programs closed due to COVID-19, The Learning Lamp’s lone hospital-affiliated center remained open to care for the children of essential health care professionals and other first responders.

Additionally, The Learning Lamp operates free after school programs, classrooms for children and teens with emotional, behavioral, and developmental needs, drug and alcohol education programs, and an online learning program in partnership with area schools that gives students the chance to make up credits or enroll in academic coursework, ensuring they graduate from high school and become contributing members of our community.

Finally, The Learning Lamp’s own entrepreneurial activities, while nonprofit and social in nature, have created more than 700 jobs across the counties we serve. That, from a humble start of one—the agency’s founding executive director and current CEO, in 2003. The Learning Lamp invests heavily in professional development and credit-bearing coursework for employees, allowing them to earn degrees, gain promotions, and make more money to support their families. At the invitation of Pennsylvania’s Office of Child Development and Early Learning, The Learning Lamp piloted an Early Childhood Education Apprenticeship Program in 2019 that enables child care staff in smaller cities and rural communities to work toward a college degree online and at no cost. A first cohort of seven workers will earn Child Development Associate credentials in December. A second cohort is slated to begin coursework through Shippensburg University in January 2021.

Q3. IRS Filing Status: 501(c)(3)   

Q4. Unit or Chapter of Larger Organization: No

Q5. Employees:

Full-Time/Part-Time Employees: 79/640 (as of 9/1/2020)

Full-Time/Part-Time Employees: 73/809 (as of 12/31/2019)

Current Year Income/Expenses: $8,624,924/$8,217,985

Q6. Fiscal Year: Calendar

Q7. Budget Level

Last Fiscal Year Income/Expenses (Actual): $9,812,710 / $9,335,822

Current Year Income/Expenses (Projected): $8,624,924 / $8,217,985

Balance Sheet

Q8. Restricted Reserves (Amount): Yes ($38,800)

Q9. CARES Act Funding (Amount): Yes ($728,700)
Received From: Center for Community Action   Date Received: 7/7/2020; 7/31/2020; 9/30/2020
For What Purpose(s): To support child care programs operated by The Learning Lamp

Q10. Negative Impacts from COVID-19:

During the early months of the pandemic, the government-mandated shutdown of schools and child care programs reduced The Learning Lamp from a staff of nearly 700 to fewer than 100. Many of those who remained on staff had their hours greatly reduced. All of the organization’s programs, except for one child care center, were shuttered. It was a frightening time, resulting in greatly decreased income and little available work. The stress was compounded by uncertainty. We had no idea how long the money we had set aside for payroll and facilities costs would last. Even while going without pay, the organization’s core leadership team continued to work to ensure the future of The Learning Lamp.

As the curve of the pandemic flattened and Pennsylvania’s Governor began to ease restrictions, some child care programs reopened to meet the needs of working families. Because CDC guidelines require child care programs to operate at only half capacity, and the reluctance of some families and employees to return to centers and risk exposure to COVID, The Learning Lamp’s child care programs are caring for a fraction of children previously enrolled. Yet, some staffing and all facilities costs remain the same. This puts the organization in a precarious position, with child care programs in jeopardy of closing if things don’t return to normal soon. Sadly, normal is likely a year away.

Meanwhile, the demand for child care is increasing. Many people are heading back to work. Unfortunately, six area child care centers have permanently closed their doors since March 2020. Most of The Learning Lamp’s child care centers now have waiting lists of children who can’t be accommodated due to CDC guidelines, and our financial losses continue to mount toward a projected $2 million shortfall for the year.

Q11. Top Three Concerns:
The ability to sustain child care programs that are a critical workforce support, but losing money
The ability to accommodate the many families in need of care that cannot be served due to CDC guidelines and a staffing shortage
Where and how to find staff to fill open positions to serve more children

How Participation in Program Will Address Concerns:

Founded in 2003, The Learning Lamp is still a relatively new nonprofit organization. While the organization’s services and audience have grown exponentially over the last 17 years, its systems and structures have struggled to accommodate the increase. Manual processes and a lack of technology-driven solutions are holding back further growth and increasing the time it takes for employees to do their jobs. It is also inhibiting The Learning Lamp’s ability to scale—creating jobs and supporting children and families across the Appalachian communities it serves.

A second area of need is further development of the organization’s fundraising efforts. Since its inception, The Learning Lamp has focused primarily on earned income streams. The time is now to build a fundraising office, increase grant seeking efforts, and grow our very small donor base. We are at a critical juncture for this. Without support from donors and other funders, the organization is unable to grow to accommodate the increasing demand for child care services—a critical workforce support for the region’s families.

By participating in either the Mission and Operations or Fundraising technical assistance programs, The Learning Lamp will develop an understanding of available resources and build a plan to carry the organization into the future. From a mission and operations perspective, this includes identifying areas for improvement and strategies for change. We need to learn how to scale and identify the supports needed to make that possible. In terms of fundraising, the organization needs assistance developing and implementing a fundraising plan designed to attract donors and identify potential private, state, and federal sources of funds.


Q12. Applying as a Proposed Cohort? No

Q13. Executive Director or CEO Will Participate in the Program? Yes

Q14. Top Two Choices for Cohort Instruction:

Course #1 Choice: 1-Fundraising

Course #2 Choice: 2-Mission & Operations

Q15. Desired Course Schedule for Cohort Instruction:

#1 Desired Course Schedule: 1-Winter 2021 A: 5-Week Course (Jan. 25, 2021 – Feb. 28, 2021)

#2 Desired Course Schedule: 2-Winter 2021 B: 5-Week Course (Mar. 1, 2021-April 4, 2021)


Name: Leah Spangler, President & CEO

Application Approved by Organization Director or CEO? Yes, Approved by Executive Director/CEO

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