Beary Cherry Tree

Jefferson Community Foundation honors Paula Polito as the 2023 “Jefferson First” Philanthropy Award recipient

Jefferson Community Foundation (JCF) is proud to announce Paula Polito as the 2023 recipient of the “Jefferson First” Philanthropy Award.

JCF aimed to recognize an individual who made a significant contribution to Jefferson Parish through their philanthropic giving, community service, actions, talents and dedication.

Polito was honored during the JCF Gala Celebration.

Polito has worked in child care for over 32 years.

She is the owner of Beary Cherry Tree in Metairie and has operated this high-quality early care and education center since 1999.

Today, Beary Cherry Tree serves over 200 Jefferson Parish families.

paula polito jefferson first award

In addition to overseeing everyday operations, Polito currently serves as a contract trainer for Teachstone, the maker of the Classroom Assessment Scoring System® (CLASS). Through implementation of the CLASS tool, she understands measures of quality in early care and education and she ensures teacher-child interactions at Beary Cherry Tree meet – and exceed – these standards.

Polito is driven by the outcomes and achievements of children at her center. In addition to quantitative success, she has received heartfelt stories from Beary Cherry Tree families about their children’s
growth and development.

Outside of the classroom, Polito is deeply involved in volunteer advocacy efforts at the state and local level. She serves as Advisory Board chair for the Louisiana Department of Education, commission member for the Louisiana Early Childhood Care and Education Commission, advisory council member for Jefferson Ready Start Network, and board member for the Jefferson Chamber of Commerce. 

She previously served as Education Committee chair for the Jefferson Chamber of Commerce.

“As a female small-business owner in Jefferson Parish, Paula has used her platform to shed light on the necessity of access to early care and education,” said JCF Board President Jim Garvey.

“Her enthusiasm for our parish’s youngest learners is admirable. Paula works day in and day out to advocate for our parish’s youngest learners and her work is helping expand access to children and families who need quality care and education.”

Polito was recognized on Friday, Nov. 3 as part of the JCF Gala Celebration, the foundation’s premiere fundraiser for the community.

“I am truly humbled that the leaders within the Jefferson Community Foundation recognize my efforts to advocate for our youngest learners,” said Polito. “I am grateful that this important work is considered to be a significant contribution to Jefferson and recognize that my efforts help shape a bright future for our parish as a better place to live, work and play!”

Since 2008, JCF has been connecting philanthropy to critical community needs to enhance the quality of life for all Jefferson Parish. The Gala Celebration, presented by the Fiel Family Foundation, gathered community and business members in honor of the fifteen years of service. 

Guests were treated to gourmet cuisine, an open bar and special highlights from the year including Jefferson Community
Youth Leadership students and Jefferson Ready Start Network.

“The gala offers us the opportunity to celebrate the progress of our foundation’s programs and highlight individuals like Paula for their dedication to our parish,” said Christine Briede, executive  director of JCF. 

“We are so thankful for the way community and business leaders embrace our programs and were excited to put together an evening to celebrate while raising funds for our continued work.”

The JCF Gala Celebration was supported by the following sponsors: Citizens National Bank, Lauricella Land Company, Henry and Pat Shane, Jim Garvey, Catholic Cemeteries, Cornerstone Chemical, Coulon Family Fund, EisnerAmper, InclusivCare, Joe Ewell, Landis Construction, Los Jefes Grill, Nugent Freeland Team/Keller Williams, Red River Bank, Byron and Pat LeBlanc and Jefferson Ready Start Network.

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